Leoncavallo, Ruggero: La bohème
Act 3: Aria, “Musetta! O gioia della mia dimora…Testa adorata” (Marcello)
Aria Talk •
Editor's Note: Aria Talk focuses not on the tried-and-true pieces you undoubtedly already know, but on somewhat off-the-beaten-track arias. The hope is that this music will prove a refreshing musical and interpretive change not only for you, the performer, but also for those hearing you in auditions.
If Rodolfo’s high C gives you nightmares, don’t abandon La bohème, just change characters: In Leoncavallo’s version of the same story (premiered the year after Puccini’s), he casts Marcello as the tenor, whose “Testa adorata” is the hit of the opera. It’s a little shorter than “Che gelida” and actually needs a little more guts, but if you have the vocal weight, it should serve you very well indeed.
In late summer, Marcello and Musetta are still together but Rodolfo and Mimì have split up. Mimì returns to the garret to beg Rodolfo’s forgiveness, which he refuses to give. After hearing from Musetta that she can’t endure their poverty anymore, Marcello thinks Mimì has talked her into leaving him. Mimì sadly departs and Musetta, having packed her things, leaves, too.
Rodolfo’s off licking his wounds, so to speak, leaving Marcello alone onstage. Act 3 ends with his aria, in which he remembers his life with Musetta: No more will her head rest on his pillow, never again will his lips kiss her hands and he will weep as he remembers their past happiness. Especially in the introductory “Musetta!” section, you’ll recognize the full-tilt, abandoned mode of expression that one finds in certain outbursts of Pagliacci’s Canio. The aria proper begins in a heartfelt legato style, which should be projected with enough restraint to let the ensuing expansiveness — starting at “Gaie canzon” and carrying through to the end (including the climactic rose to high B-flat) — achieve maximum impact.
Recording: Ben Heppner, “Great Tenor Arias,” RCA #62504; “The Young Domingo”; RCA #63527; Mario Malagnini in complete performance, Nuova Era #7300.
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