I love opera!
Maybe I should qualify that – I love Italian opera…….
But please, don’t hold this against me – I just discovered at an impressionable age that opera has the ability to be ‘more than’. Take any emotion you can think of: falling in love, falling out of love – pain, hurt, jealousy, broken heart, lost love, betrayal, death – and then multiply it by ten and you have the heights and depths of emotion the operatic aria can take you to. It will wash you clean if you listen at just the right time in your life!
Of course you have to suspend any association with real life. Very often when the voice is mature enough to sing the role, the singer is past the first flush of youth and most operatic leading characters are young and nubile ….. I remember seeing Pavarotti at his heaviest playing the the mighty Egyptian soldier Radames in Aida. He stood stock still, centre stage, like a rotund statue while the entire cast moved about him. But oh that voice!
In this day of filmed operatic singing it is hard to stay in the moment when chests are heaving and mouths are working overtime to get those notes out. You have to so admire opera singers, they have to sing and emote at the same time. It works much better when it is on the stage. The lighting, set and costumes – the vivid colour and acoustically perfect orchestra and soaring voices take over and the distance between you and the on-stage performance allows for the suspension of belief – one can be quite transported by the event.
Because of course the other thing about operas is the sets and costumes. One should never simply listen to an opera – it is a feast for all the senses. Rich in colour and grandeur and theatrical presence. The orchestra and voices soar and mingle with the colour and movement – it is a sensory explosion.
Not everything about operas is good. Many of the stories are just plain rubbish really. Sometimes the music misses the spot. But, just like modern musicals, every opera has at least one ‘hit tune’. And when aria and the emotion collide it is indeed a spectacular thing!
Even if you have never seen an opera and even if you have and say it’s not for you, I’m sure you will be familiar with these wonderful pieces. Have a listen as you read on.
This is one of my favourites, a chorus from Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ – even if you know nothing about the story, you cannot help but be taken into the tragic denouement.
The Hebrew Slaves Chorus from Verdi’s ‘Nabucco’. Can you hear the hopeless exhaustion throughout this hymn of loss for their beloved homeland? From the opening ‘Va pensiero’ I am always caught, no matter who is singing. I recommend biggifying this, and just enjoy – it is great example of staging and emoting while singing……..
One of the most popular operas today is also, in many ways, [and purely in my opinion, you understand – feel free to disagree] one of the worst operas of all time. It’s another Puccini opera, ‘La Boheme’ and it is in part, truly terrible! The plot is all over the place and some of the music is less than memorable. But there is a lovely romantic story running through it and it has to be admitted, I love a good romantic tragedy!
The real story is about Rinaldo, the writer and Mimi, the delicate embroiderer who lives above him. All the rest just tends to get in the way. This is one of the versions I have on DVD……..
In much abbreviated form it is the story of some young students – an artist a writer, a philosopher and a musician – all living in poverty in their garret quarters, hiding from the landlord because they can’t pay their rent. It is Christmas Eve. [Which reminds me, the modern musical ‘Rent’ is based on this opera.]
There is a knock on the door and Mimi enters. Mimi is a neighbour living in the upstairs attic, a poor girl who embroiders flowers for a living. Her candle has blown out and she has come seeking a light. Subsequently she loses her key to her door. Rinaldo, the writer, goes with her to look for the lost key. The sneaky beggars finds it and pockets it without Mimi seeing. Moment later he is declaring his undying love.
They get together, then he ditches her claiming he can’t stand her cloying jealousy but confides in his friend he thinks their poor living conditions are making Mimi ill. [Why he thinks kicking her out will make her better is beyond me and just another hole in the story.] Many scenes are out in the snow to ensure you get the ‘frozen’ message. Mimi coughs dramatically whilst singing beautifully and with her last remaining strength comes to find her lover again. She dies in his arms. Despite all my cynicism I always shed a tear!
Now the upshot of all of this is that even though I dislike the story – just between you and me, I feel I could have written a much better version ……. when the music is good, it is very good – in fact touchingly beautiful. This is why it is one of the most popular operas after all. And I admit it is the romance, the bohemian lifestyle, the starving artist in a garret syndrome that has me in its thrall. I am such a sucker for romance! Did I say that already? And bohemian artists in garrets …… sigh!
Here’s quite a good version of ‘La Boheme’ if you want to watch it
So when I had the opportunity to rescue some black fingerless gloves from the landfill because they were imperfectly finished or had minor faults and began to play around with them of course the very first thing that came to me was this aria from La Boheme ‘Che Gelida Manina’ loosely translated as ‘your tiny hand is frozen’ which Rinaldo sings to Mimi right off the bat!
I played around with colour and made Mimi many mittens so her hands would be forever warm. To accompany the theme there are little darned patches in some of the gloves, whether the mitten needed it for real or not. These are true bohemian mittens, colourful, different and ever so slightly well worn looking.
Mimi Handwarmers have flowers on the back.
La Boheme do not have flowers, they have a fancy ridge instead.
While the black gloves are made using acrylic yarn the additions are made with New Zealand wool or kid mohair. Every pair is different because I make it up as I go along.
I am enjoying making them and enjoying knowing something has been saved from the landfill and given the chance of an appreciated and fun life on someones hand. I am giving these mittens away. There are six pairs of handwarmers. However, I’m sorry to say, you do have to pay postage if you want to win a pair – my funds won’t run that far.
*New Zealand people postage is $NZ4.50
*The Rest of The World postage is $NZ10.00
* If I find I can get it sent to you for less I shall reimburse the difference.
Here’s how it works: If you wish to go in the draw you must be a follower of this blog and you must leave a comment. And I would really like it if you would take the poll – please, take the poll….. [I’ve been blogging for two years, I just had my anniversary last week and this is my first poll and I would love your feedback!]
Also mention your first and second colour and style preferences in your comment.
Even if you don’t want a pair of fabulous Mimi Mittens you can still leave a comment – you know I love to hear from you – I know bohemian isn’t everyone’s style!
At the end of the week I will draw names and publish the winners. You will then have to contact me via the address on my ‘Contact Me’ page to make arrangements for the payment of your postage and to give me your address.
Here’s the poll:
I hope you enjoyed listening to some of the music on offer – Orlando is asking me to turn it off – he votes for Bruce Springsteen, he’s not a fan of opera and he loves the late, great Clarence’s sax – we usually have a bit of a dance ……
Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!