GIACOMO PUCCINI is one of the greatest masters of the art of opera.
The Manon Lescaut opera is the beginning of his successful way up (he is the author of 12 operas). It is associated with an important period in his life: Puccini fell in love with Elvira Bonturi, who was unhappily married to Narciso Gemignani. At that time the divorce was not allowed by the Catholic Church; nevertheless, Elvira decided to live with Puccini, taking both her children with her. The story of the Chealier des Grieux and Manon Lescaut, told in the novel „Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux, et de Manon Lescaut” by Abbé Prévost, had attracted the composer with the fact that it was very reminiscent of his own life and his love for Elvira. It is a love that sweeps away all barriers and prejudices. The same plot was recreated by French composer Daniel Auber in the then very popular opera Manon. However, Puccini did not give up. Manon Lescaut had tremendous success. The orchestral Intermezzo in the second act is a beautiful, masterfully created musical picture, which is also performed as a single piece.
It is known that Puccini was extremely attentive to the texts of his operas. After focusing on the plot of „Scenes from the Life of the Bohemians” by the French writer Henri Murger, he suggested to Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica to write the libretto (later they would become his major librettists) of La boheme. He knew that his friend Leoncavallo had also started working on Murger’s text, but captivated by the idea, Puccini invested all his passion and finished the opera in eight months (Leoncavallo’s premiere was a year later). The premiere of La bohème was on February 1st, 1896 in Turin under the direction of Arturo Toscanini. Several days after that, the opera spread throughout Italy and was performed in a number of Italian opera theaters, with the entire first act being performed encore in Palermo. Che gelida manina (What a frozen little hand) is Rodolfo’s tenor aria from the first act sung by him to Mimì when they first meet. In the aria he tells her of his life as a poet, and ends by asking her to tell him more about her life. Che gelida manina is one of the most performed and recorded arias by tenors.