The song Quando M’en Vo is also known as Musetta’s Waltz and comes from the second act of “La Bohème”.
The opera is based on the novel ‘Scènes de la vie de bohème ‘ by Henri Murger. La bohème is a four act Italian Opera composed by Giacomo Puccini. The world premiere was in February 1896 in Turin. The word ‘bohemian’ describes the non-traditional lifestyle of impoverished artists; writers; journalists; musicians and actors in major European cities.
Mimi – a seamstress – soprano
Rodolfo – a poet – tenor
Musetta – a singer – soprano
Marcello-a painter – baritone
Schaunard – a musician – baritone
Colline – a philosopher – bass
Benoit – a landlord – bass
Alcindoro – a sugar daddy – bass
Parpignol – a Toy seller – tenor
Four friends share an apartment in Paris; Marcello, Rodolfo, Colline and Schaunard they are broke and cold but Schaunard plays for an eccentric English Lord who instructed him to play his violin for his parrot until it died and he earns enough from this to buy provisions and offers to pay for food at the Café Momus to celebrate his good fortune. It is Christmas Eve and Benoit the Landlord tries to collect the rent, they ply him with cheap wine and three of the men go out to the Café Momus leaving Rodolfo behind as he needs to finish an article.
A soft knock on the door disturbs him and he opens it to a lovely, pale young woman who asks him to re-light her candle. He invites her in and she promptly faints. She is called Mimi but her real name is Lucia she sings the famous aria “Mi chiamano Mimi” she embroiders to earn a living, Rodolfo is completely smitten by her and when his friends return to persuade him to come with them she asks if she can go with him, they leave singing of love ‘O soave fanciulla’ (Oh Lovely Girl).
At the Café Momus in the Latin district the friends eat a huge supper and Rodolfo introduces everyone to Mimi. Musetta makes a flamboyant entrance with her wealthy benefactor Alcindoro. Marcello tears Musettas character to shreads, Musetta notices him and is annoyed that he will not look at her. She creates a scene smashing a plate, Musetta turns her full charms on Marcello, she sings ‘Quando men vo’ boasting how everyone watches her when she walks down the street and their looks fill her with desire.
Mimi feels sorry for her and Rodolfo explains that Marcello had once loved her but she left him for the wealthy Alcindoro. Musetta pretends to have a dreadful pain in her foot and sends Alcindoro off to fix her shoe. Marcello is undone with her flirtations and embraces her. When the bill comes the Bohemians don’t have sufficient funds to pay so slyly Musetta suggests they combine bills and let a dumbfounded Alcindoro pay it.
Marcello is living in a tavern and paints for the innkeeper, Mimi appears coughing violently she tells him of her hard life with Rodolfo who abandoned her the night before. Marcello confesses that Rodolfo is inside. Rodolfo wakes up and comes out looking for Marcello, Mimi hides, she hears Rodolfo confess his jealousy and reasons for leaving Mimi were a sham, he fears she is being consumed by a deadly illness (most likely consumption). Rodolfo in poverty can’t do anything to help and hopes his pretended unkindness will encourage her to find a wealthy suitor. Mimi’s coughing alerts him to her presence and they agree to stay together until Spring. Meantime Marcello hears Musetta laughing and goes to find her, they quarrel about her flirting.
Some months later Marcello and Rodolfo are trying to work, they talk about their girlfriends who have left them and found wealthy lovers. Schaunard and Colline arrive with a frugal dinner to share. Musetta appears she found Mimi in the street that day, severely weakened by her illness, her wealthy lover had left her and haggard and pale they help her to bed. The friends leave to pawn their belongings to buy medicine. Mimi tells Rodolfo that her love for him is her whole life ‘Sono andati’. As Musetta prays Mimi dies leaving Rodolfo weaping with anguish.
This is a video of me singing the aria “Quando M’en Vo” accompanied by Russell Lomas from a recital in Rochdale in 2014. You can download a copy of the song on Amazon or iTunes from my album Canzoni D’Amore.