The Portrait of Puccini’s Aria MI CHIAMANO MIMI
Read Interesting facts and hear great YouTube Videos about the famous Aria “Mi chiamano Mimi”.
The Aria – Synopsis & Background
Synopsis: Rodolfo is the only one who stays at the at the apartment, as he still has to finish an article. There is a knock at the door. It iss Mimi, the seamstress from the neighbor’s apartment. She asks for fire for the extinguished candle. Mimi feels weak and Rodolfo takes care of her. Mimi introduces herself. She is a seamstress and her real name is Lucia.
In this aria Puccini portrays Mimi at the beginning with very simple means. So her text remains surprisingly unpoetic at first (my name is Mimi…once my name was Lucia; I am diligent, and cook my own food) and is composed in simple harmonies.
Then the miracle happens. Mimi recognizes her feelings for Rodolfo. Suddenly the text becomes poetic (Ma quando vien lo sgelo – But it begins to thaw…) and the music opens to one of Puccini’s great musical inspirations (Abbate) to the climax of the text “il primo sole” and “il primo bacio”, which is then followed by a repeated “il primo sole” sung with great emotion in the piano. Puccini then brings us back into the mood of the beginning of this aria.
This piece is what Puccini called a “Pezzo forte” – a number he knew would have an effect (Abbate).
Mi chiamano Mimi – the text
Sì. Mi chiamano Mimì
Ma il mio nome è Lucia
La storia mia è breve
A tela o a seta
Ricamo in casa e fuori
Son tranquilla e lieta
Ed è mio svago
Far gigli e rose
Mi piaccion quelle cose
Che han sì dolce malìa
Che parlano d’amor, di primavere
Di sogni e di chimere
Quelle cose che han nome poesia
Mi chiamano Mimì
Il perché non so
Sola, mi fo
Il pranzo da me stessa
Non vado sempre a messa
Ma prego assai il Signore
Vivo sola, soletta
Là in una bianca cameretta
Guardo sui tetti e in cielo
Ma quando vien lo sgelo
Il primo sole è mio
Il primo bacio dell’aprile è mio!
Germoglia in un vaso una rosa
Foglia a foglia la spio!
Cosi gentile il profumo d’un fiore!
Ma i fior ch’io faccio
Ahimè! non hanno odore
Altro di me non le saprei narrare
Sono la sua vicina che la vien fuori d’ora a importunare
Yes, they call me Mimi
but my true name is Lucia.
My story is short.
A canvas or a silk
I embroidery at home and abroad…
I am happy and at peace
and my pastime
is to make lilies and roses.
I love all things
that have gentle sweet smells,
that speak of love, of spring,
of dreams and fanciful things,
those things that have poetic names …
Do you understand me?
They call me Mimi,
I do not know why.
Alone, I make
lunch by myself.
I do not go to church,
but I pray a lot to the Lord.
I stay all alone
there in a white room
and look upon the roofs and the sky
but when the thaw comes
The first sun, like my
first kiss, is mine!
Buds in a vase…
Leaf and leaf I spy!
That gentle perfume of a flower!
But the flowers that I make,
Alas! no smell.
Other than telling you about me, I know nothing.
I am only your neighbor who comes out to bother you.
Written for a “lyrical soprano”
The role of Mimi is written for a lyrical soprano. The lyrical soprano must have a voice with a warm timbre and must be able to convince with a bell-like sound in the high register. This should be colourful and must not sound forced. The middle register must be rich.
Famous interpretations of Mi chiamano Mimi
Naturally, this aria was recorded by many great singers. Reason enough to choose four great recordings for you.
Let’s start with perhaps the greatest, that of Renata Tebaldi.
Tebaldi wasn’t much of an actress. This was partly due to poliomyelitis at the age of 3 years, which certainly caused immobility. All the more she had to rely on her vocal abilities. And they were excellent. “In the rich development of her height she has no equal after the war.” (Kesting). Toscanini is said to have called her voice (the correctness of the statement is controversial) even “angel voice”.
Mi chiamano Mimi (1) – Tebaldi
The next recording is by Anna Netrebko from a performance at the Salzburg Festival.
Mi chiamano Mimi (2) – Netrebko
In the last recording we hear Magda Olivero. Kesting: “Few recordings of Mimi’s mi chiamano have more iridescent colors, more light and shadow, more gestures.”
Mi chiamano Mimi (3) – Olivero
and a 4th version from Maria Callas
Mi chiamano Mimi (4) – Callas
A third recording we hear and see from Angela Gheorghiu. It shows that the Romanian singer is not only an excellent singer, but also a talented actress.
Mi chiamano Mimi (5) – Gheorghiu
Peter Lutz, opera-inside, the online opera guide to MI CHIAMANO MIMI from the opera La Bohème