"Quando men vo" Lyrics and Text Translation

Musetta's aria opens the second act of Puccini's opera "La Boheme"

Puccini’s Opera, La Boheme
Peter Wedd and Mary Plazas perform during the dress rehearsal of Francesco Zambello's new production of Puccini's much-loved opera La Boheme at the Royal Albert Hall February 25, 2004 in London. Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

The classic opera "La Boheme" follows the lives of a group of bohemians in Paris during the 1830s. La Boheme" premiered in Turin in 1896, and although it was not an immediate success, it soon became one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the world. It takes its plot (known in opera as a libretto) from Henri Murger's "Scenes de la vie de Boheme." 

It's also been the subject of numerous interpretations and adaptations, including the award-winning 1996 musical "Rent." Rather than suffering from tuberculosis as one of its "La Boheme" counterparts do, the characters in "Rent" deal with drug addiction and HIV/AIDS.

 

Plot of the Opera 'La Boheme'

Rodolfo, a playwright, falls in love with Mimi, his neighbor. She suffers from tuberculosis, which produces a tell-tale cough. Rodolfo's friend Marcello, a painter, is drawn to his ex-girlfriend Musetta, who is in a relationship with wealthy government administrator Alcindoro. The other main characters include Colline, a philosopher and Schaunard, a musician. 

The group struggles to survive; in the opening scene, Marcello and Rodolfo are burning a copy of Rodolfo's manuscript to keep warm, and are scheming a way to avoid paying their rent.  

Musetta Sings 'Quando me'n Vo'

During the second act, Musetta attempts to make Marcello jealous, as she has grown tired of Alcindoro. She and Alcindoro happen upon Marcello and his friends in a cafe. She sings the song "Quando me'n vo" (also known as "Musetta's Waltz").

During the aria, she complains of her tight shoe, so Alcindoro runs to the shoemaker to fix the problem.

In the scene to follow, now that Alcindoro is out of the way, Marcello and Musetta end up in each others' arms. Of course, none of Marcello's group has enough money to pay the bill, so Musetta tells the waiter to charge it to Alcindoro's account. 

"Quando m'en vo" means "when I go along" in Italian.

Here's how it reads in the original Italian, followed by an English translation. This aria is written for a soprano, and is in the time signature of a waltz.

Italian Lyrics of 'Quando me'n Vo'

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

English Translation of 'Quando me'n Vo'

When walking alone on the streets,
People stop and stare
And examine my beauty
From head to toe
And then I savor the cravings
which from their eyes transpires
And from the obvious charms they perceive
The hidden beauties.
So the scent of desire is all around me,
It makes me happy!
And you who know, who remembers and yearns,
You shrink from me?
I know why this is:
You do not want to tell me of your anguish,
But you feel like dying!