Boy meets girl. Girl dies.
On christmas Eve Mimì visits her neighbour Rodolfo to ask if he can light her candle. They fall in love at first sight. Mimì is fatally sick and their love is short lived.
Opera in 4 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours 10 min + intervals
Paris around 1830
A garret in Paris on Christmas Eve
In a cold attic studio the poet Rodolfo and the painter Marcello are trying to find something to burn to keep warm. They end up burning Rodolfo’s manuscript of his play. The philosopher Colline arrives, upset at not having been able to pawn some books. Soon after, the fourth roommate Schaunard, a musician, enters in a better mood having received some money. He brings food, wine and cigarettes that will hopefully last them through winter.
Benoit, the landlord, knocks on the door demanding rent. The four bohemians manage to avoid paying the rent. They set off to Café Momus in the Latin Quarter, all except Rodolfo who needs to finish an article. Mimì knocks on the door. She lives next door but they’ve never met. Her candle has gone out and she asks Rodolfo for a new flame. She’s weak, and faints. Rodolfo helps her, and after a while she feels better. She is about to leave, but realises that her key is gone. Both of their flames go out and they search in darkness. Rodolfo finds the key but doesn’t tell Mimì since he wants to spend more time with her. Mimì and Rodolfo share little details of their lives. Rodolfo’s friends want him to join them at Café Momus. Mimì decides to go with him.
In the street outside Café Momus the Christmas spirit is on a high with people buying last minute food and gifts. Rodolfo gets Mimì a bonnet. They go inside the café to dine. Musetta shows up with the rich, elderly Alcindoro, in an attempt to make Marcello jealous. When Marcello doesn’t react, Musetta becomes very frustrated, trying every way to get his attention. Marcello is won over. Musetta pretends her foot is aching and sends Alcindoro off to the cobbler to mend her shoe. Marcello and Musetta passionately embrace.
At the toll gate at the Barrière d’Enfer, late February
Mimì’s health is declining. She is looking for Marcello to talk to him about Rodolfo’s jealousy. She overhears Rodolfo telling Marcello that he’s too poor to offer her the lifestyle she needs because of her illness. Marcello and Musetta are arguing while Rodolfo and Mimì try to end their relationship amicably.
A few months later back in the garret
Rodolfo and Marcello are trying to work but find it difficult not to talk about Mimì and Musetta who have found new rich lovers. Schaunard and Colline arrive and together they have a simple dinner pretending it’s a generous banquet with dancing. Musetta suddenly bursts in to tell them that Mimì is dying. Mimì wants Rodolfo to come to her. He brings the bonnet he once bought her and they reminisce on the love they’ve shared. All of Mimì’s friends try to help but it’s too late.
Rodolfo – Tenor (lyric)
A poet, in love with Mimì
Mimì – Soprano (lyric)
A seamstress, in love with Rodolfo
Marcello – Baritone (lyric)
A painter, in love with Musetta
Musetta – Soprano (lyric)
A singer, in love with Marcello
Colline – Bass (lyric)
Benoît – Bass (buffo)
Alcindoro - Bass (buffo)
Councillor, infatuated with Mimì
Parpignol – Tenor (buffo)
A customs Sergeant – Bass
Place of birth: Lucca, Italy
Place of death: Brussels, Belgium
Giacomo Puccini was an Italian Late Romantic opera composer. He came from a musical family with organists and composers in five generations. However, as a child Puccini was neither a keen student or particularly interested in music. That was not sparked until he attended a performance of Verdi’s Aida in Pisa 1876.
His operas are written in the realistic Verismo style, with La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly being his most popular.
Although his operas were hugely praised, on a personal level Puccini was struggling. He was in a near fatal auto accident in his 40s, his love life was full of jealousy and drama and he later died from throat cancer a week after having received experimental radiation treatment in Brussels. At the time of Puccini’s death, he was the most commercially successful opera composer of all time.
“Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man's faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements.“
He loved motor cars and speedboats. He was good friends with the inventor Thomas Edison.
Most prominent operas
Manon Lescaut 1893
La bohème 1896
Madama Butterfly 1904
La fanciulla del West 1910
La rondine 1917
Il tabarro 1918 (Il trittico)
Suor Angelica 1918 (Il trittico)
Gianni Schicchi 1918 (Il trittico)
La bohème is based on the book Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. Luigi Illica wrote the plot and dialogues while Giuseppe Giacosa made it into verses.
Luigi Illica was an Italian librettist. Among his most famous works are La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Andrea Chénier. In photos he is always turned to the right because he lost his ear in a duel over a woman.
Giuseppe Giacosa was an Italian poet, playwright and librettist. He worked together with Illica on the librettos for La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly. He also finalised the libretto for Manon Lescaut.
3d1, 2+1, 2+1, 2 - 4, 3, 3, 1
timp, perc, xylophone, harp, strings
Chorus: SATB, children's chorus
La bohème is Puccini’s most popular opera. It premiered in 1896 at Teatro Regio in Turin conducted by Arturo Toscanini. Although the reactions were lukewarm at the premiere, the opera was well received around the world being performed in many of the major opera houses in the years to come.
Today La bohème is one of the top 5 most performed operas worldwide.
Aria - Che gelida manina (Rodolfo)
Aria – Si, min chiamano Mimì (Mimì)
Duet – O soave fanciulla (Rodolof, Mimì)
Aria - Quando m’en vo (Musetta)
Aria – Donde lieta uscì (Mimì)
Aria – Vecchia zimarra, senti (Colline)
Duet – Sono andati? Fingevo di dormire (Mimì, Rodolfo)