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Musetta


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1 (Puccini: La bohème). Sop. A grisette who has been Marcello's lover. They have quarrelled and parted and she has found herself a new patron, the elderly but very wealthy Alcindoro. The bohemians come to the Café Momus on Christmas Eve, and there she and Marcello make a great play of not noticing each other, whilst she does her best to make sure he does notice her. Pretending that her shoe hurts, she sends Alcindoro to the cobbler to have it adjusted and then joins her old friends for supper. When the bill is presented they are horrified, but Musetta knows just what to do—she places it on Alcindoro's table together with his own account, and they all leave the restaurant before he returns. In a tavern near the Latin Quarter of Paris where they live, Musetta is flirting with another guest and Marcello is furious with her. They quarrel violently and their words (‘Viper! Toad! Witch!’) are in sharp contrast to the sad farewells which Rodolfo and Mimì are exchanging. So the two couples again part. But Mimì's health is deteriorating and, ill and weak, she is brought by Musetta to the attic to be with Rodolfo. Musetta takes off her earrings and sends Marcello to sell them to raise money for food and medicine, but it is too late. In this final scene, the other, tender, side of the flamboyant Musetta's nature comes to the fore. She gives Mimì her fur muff to keep her hands warm and then tells her it is from Rodolfo, and she gladly gives up her valuable jewellery to buy the necessary treatment for the sick girl—one might say she is the gold-digger with the heart of gold. Aria: Quando men vo soletto…(‘As I walk alone’); ens. (with Marcello and with Rodolfo and Mimì): Dunque è proprio finita? /Che facevi? (‘So it's really over?’ /‘What were you doing?’). Created (1896) by Camilla Pasini, considered ‘excellent’ by the composer. There have been many other excellent Musettas since then, including Hilde Gueden, Margherita Carioso, Anna Moffo, Graziella Sciutti, Ljuba Welitsch (there is a story that a prospective New York Mimì, hearing who was to be the Musetta, took to her heels and ran, unable to face the competition), Adèle Leigh, Dorothy Kirsten, Rita Streich, Elizabeth Harwood, Sona Ghazarian, Hildegard Behrens, Carol Neblett, Ashley Putnam, and Nancy Gustafson.

2 (Leoncavallo: La bohème). Mez. A grisette, in love with Marcello, she leaves him to avoid living in constant poverty, but later returns to him and is there when Mimì dies. Created (1897) by Rosina Storchio.

Subjects: Opera.


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