History of and English Lyrics to 'Musetta's Waltz'

Puccini’s Opera, La Boheme
Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

The Italian opera "La Bohème" is one of the most famous works by composer Giacomo Puccini. Based on a series of stories published in 1851, "La Bohème" is set in the bohemian Latin Quarter of 1830s Paris. Puccini introduces a series of young characters, chronicling their loves and lives in classic four-act operatic structure.


Giacomo Puccini (Dec. 22, 1858–Nov. 29, 1924) came from a long line of musicians in Lucca, Italy. After studying composition in Milan, he published his first opera in 1884, a one-act work called "La villi." "La Bohème," Puccini's fourth opera, made its debut in Turin on Feb. 1, 1896, earning him public acclaim. He would go on to write a number of operas still performed widely today, including "Tosca" in 1900 and "Madama Butterfly" in 1904. Puccini's later work never received the critical or commercial success of his early works. He died of cancer in 1924 as he was working on "Tosca," intended to be his masterpiece. It was completed posthumously and debuted in 1926.

"La Bohème"

The plot of the play revolves around the young lovers Mimi and Rodolfo, Rodolfo's friend Marcello, Marcello's former girlfriend Musetta, and several other young artists living in poverty in Paris. Musetta first appears at the beginning of Act 2. She enters on the arm of her wealthy, elderly lover, Alcindoro, whom she no longer loves. Seeing Marcello, Musetta decides to woo him in the hopes that it will make her lover jealous. 

Overcome by the sight of Marcello, Musetta begins to sing "Quando me'n vo" ("Musetta's Waltz"). During the aria, she complains of her tight shoe, and Alcindoro runs to the shoemaker to fix the problem. With her lover out of the way, Musetta and Marcello end up in each other's arms. Their love is not to last, however. They separate in Act 3, Musetta accusing Marcello of jealousy, while Mimi and Rodolfo also appear ready to split. Love is not to be. At the conclusion of Act 4, the two couples are estranged, with Mimi dying of tuberculosis moments before Rodolfo can reconcile with her.

Italian Lyrics

Quando me'n vò soletta per la via,
La gente sosta e mira
E la bellezza mia tutta ricerca in me,
ricerca in me
Da capo a pie' ...
Ed assaporo allor la bramosia
sottil che da gl'occhi traspira
e dai palesi vezzi intender sa
Alle occulte beltà.
Cosi l’effluvio del desio tutta m'aggira,
felice mi fa, felice me fa!
E tu che sai, che memori e ti struggi
Da me tanto rifuggi?
So ben:
le angoscie tue non le vuoi dir,
non le vuoi dir so ben
Ma ti senti morir!

English Lyrics

When I walk alone in the street
People stop and stare at me
And everyone looks at my beauty,
Looks at me,
From head to foot...
And then I relish the sly yearning
which escapes from their eyes
and which is able to perceive
my most hidden beauties.
Thus the scent of desire is all around me,
and it makes me happy, makes me happy!
And you who know, who remember and yearn
Do you shrink from me?
I know it very well:
you do not want to express your anguish,
I know so well that you do not want to express it
but you feel as if you are dying!

Lyrics are provided by Wikipedia under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".


  • Biography.com staff. "Giacomo Puccini." Biography.com, 26 May 2015.
  • Metropolitan Opera staff. "Synopsis: La Boheme." MetOpera.org.