The spirit of Mimi’s flowers
Trying my hand at a still life
Cosi gentile il profumo d’un fiore!
Ma i fior ch’io faccio,
Ahimè! non hanno odore.
a corner of the attic
That gentle perfume of a flower!
But the flowers that I make,
Alas! have no smell.
My grandfather loved the opera and when I was a child he and my grandmother sometimes took me and my sister to see a performance. It always included the ritual of dressing up and having supper at a fancy restaurant which turned the whole evening into a grand and elegant event. I, too, developed a love for the music and the stories. I was held in the magic of the orchestra warming up, and the anticipation of the curtain rising on beautiful sets that whisked you away into other worlds and long ago times. Finally, the soaring music and powerful melodic voices would cause my eyes to melt into mist and my heart to launch out of my body and surge through the ceiling. I could see by the ecstatic expression of light emanating from his face that my grandfather was experiencing something similar too.
My grandfather especially loved the exquisite and sentimental arias of Puccini. The tragic La Boheme was one of his favourites. This is an old recording of Callas and Di Stefano singing O Soave Fanciulla.
Rodolfo, the poet, living with his artist friends in an attic – in Montmartre of course, meets the ill fated little flower girl, Mimi. She sells her embroidered creations for a few coins on the streets of Paris during the cold winds of winter! She knocks on his door and asks him if he would mind lighting her candle that has gone out – and- they fall in love! No matter how many times I heard it on the records my grandfather played after dinner (instead of watching tv), my sister and I always cried at the finale when Mimi dies of consumption and a distraught Rodolfo calls her name and weeps. It’s an Italian thing!
Whenever I hear tenors like Bocelli and sopranos like Netrebko today I think of my grandparents and miss them.