In Ineke’s Mitten, Nels Torkle’s close friend, Alberto Bisio, grew up in Italy. He moves from Chicago to Lucca, Italy, and starts fifth grade at the cathedral of Saint Michael’s. The cathedral often hosts opera concerts in the surrounding piazza. One day Alberto hears an opera company rehearsing for a performance of the aria Che gelida manina (What a frozen little hand).
Alberto has never heard opera and it becomes a part of his artistic passion. The aria is from Puccini’s La Boheme. Alberto learns that Puccini grew up in Lucca and attended the same school at Saint Michael’s. He loves how the singer woos his companion.
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.
While they are at Camp Hale, Alberto takes Nels to a concert at the famous Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado, for the performance of Federico’s Lament from Francesco Cilea’s La Arlesiana. It’s Alberto’s favorite but Nels is tortured by the lyrics. They remind him of Ineke.
I am searching only for peace.
I would like to be able to forget everything!
Yet every effort is in vain.
Before me I always have
her sweet face.
Peace is ever taken from me.
Why must I suffer so very much?
She, as always speaks to my heart.
Fatal vision, leave me!
You hurt me so deeply! Alas!