Che Gelida Manina Text and English Translation

The famous aria from Puccini's opera "La Boheme"

Giacoo Puccini

NewYork1956/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera "La Bohemetells the story of bohemians struggling to survive in 1830s Paris. Loosely based on the novel "Scenes de la vie de Boheme" by Henri Murger, "La Boheme" is one of the most popular operas in the world. It premiered in Turin in 1896. 

The plot centers around a group of people living in poverty in Paris; Rodolfo, a playwright, falls in love with Mimi, his neighbor, who has a persistent cough due to tuberculosis. 

"La Boheme" has been reinterpreted numerous times. Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer-prize and Tony award-winning 1996 play "Rent" is based on "La Boheme," with the main characters suffering from HIV/AIDS and drug addiction. 

In the first act of the opera, the poet Rodolfo sings this love song to Mimi, the young woman who has come to his attic room on Christmas Eve searching for a match to relight her candle. 

When Rodolfo’s candle also blows out, the two are left alone in his dark room, lit only by the moonlight. She drops her room key, and the two clumsily struggle to find it. Rodolfo pretends to search and grabs her hand.  He serenades her, singing about his aspirations and his love for her.

Italian Text of Che Gelida Manina

Che gelida manina,
se la lasci riscaldar.
Cercar che giova?

Al buio non si trova.

Ma per fortuna
é una notte di luna,
e qui la luna
labbiamo vicina.
Aspetti, signorina,
le dirò con due parole
chi son, e che faccio,
come vivo. Vuole?
Chi son? Sono un poeta.
Che cosa faccio? Scrivo.
E come vivo? Vivo.
In povertà mia lieta
scialo da gran signore
rime ed inni damore.
Per sogni e per chimere
e per castelli in aria,
lanima ho milionaria.
Talor dal mio forziere
ruban tutti i gioelli
due ladri, gli occhi belli.
Ventrar con voi pur ora,
ed i miei sogni usati
e i bei sogni miei,
tosto si dileguar!
Ma il furto non maccora,
poiché, poiché vha preso stanza
la speranza!
Or che mi conoscete,
parlate voi, deh! Parlate. Chi siete?
Vi piaccia dir!

English Translation

What a frozen little hand,

let me warm it for you.
What's the use of looking?
We won't find it in the dark.
But luckily
it's a moonlit night,
and the moon
is near us here.
Wait, mademoiselle,
I will tell you in two words,
who I am, what I do,
and how I live. May I?
Who am I? I am a poet.
What do I do? I write.
And how do I live? I live.
In my carefree poverty
I squander rhymes
and love songs like a lord.
When it comes to dreams and visions
and castles in the air,
I've the soul of a millionaire.
From time to time two thieves
steal all the jewels
out of my safe, two pretty eyes.
They came in with you just now,
and my customary dreams
my lovely dreams,
melted at once into thin air!
Bu the theft doesn't anger me,
for their place has been
taken by hope!
Now that you know all about me,
you tell me who you are.
Please do!

Translation by Peter J. Nasou