La Bohème

Giacomo Puccini

Following is a synopsis of La bohème. La Boheme is Puccini's 4th opera. Elizabeth Harmetz appeared as Mimi in production staged in Italy.

La Boheme was first performed at the Teatro Regio in Turin Italy on February 1st, 1896.

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Librettist: Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Source: Scènes de la vie de Bohème by Henri Murger


Set in Paris 1830.

Act I

Winter in a garret.
Rodolfo is ruminating while Marcello is working on his painting of the Red Sea. When Marcello complains of the cold, Rodolfo offers to burn his manuscript for some heat. As they tear it and throw it into the stove, Colline arrives disgruntled at not being able to pawn a bundle of books. Schaunard arrives with food, fuel and funds he acquired from an eccentric englishman. They are too eager to eat the food to listen to the ludicrous details of his three-days’ musical engagement. Over wine, they decide to go to café Momus to celebrate. Their landlord, Benoît, knocks and interrupts asking for rent. Plying the landlord with wine, they urge him to tell of his flirtations, then in comic moral indignation throw him out when he reveals that he is married. Rodolfo decides to finish his article as his friends depart and promises to join them in the cafe shortly. As he begins to write, another knock on the door reveals Mimi whose candle has blown out. No sooner than Rodolfo lets her in she faints. After reviving her with wine, she discovers that she must have lost the key to her room. As the two search for it their candles get blown out. Rodolfo finds the key, slips it into his pocket, and pretends to continue searching. Their hands meet in the dark and Rodolpho tells her of his dreams. ("Che gelida manina — What a cold little hand")Mimi responds in kind and relates her lonely garret, her job embroidering and how she longs for spring. ("Sì, mi chiamano Mimì — Yes, they call me Mimì.") Rodolfo's friends urge him to come downstairs but he wishes to remain at home with Mimì decides to accompany him. As Mimì and Rodolfo embrace and slowly leave for the café they celebrate their joy in finding each other ("O soave fanciulla — Oh gentle maiden.")

Act II

The Latin Quarter.
In the square before café Momu street vendors hawk their wares. Rodolpho buys Mimi a bonnet before they join Rodolfo’s friends at a table outside the café. As they order food and wine, Parpignol the toy vendor crosses the square besieged by eager children. Musetta, Marcello’s estranged lover, makes a noisy entrance and accompanied by aged but wealthy Alcindoro. Musetta, trying to regain Marcello’s attention, sings a waltz about her popularity (“Quando me’n vo’”). Feigning that a shoe hurts she sends Alcindoro to the cobbler’s for a new pair. She and Marcello embrace and reconcile. When the bill arrives Musetta asks the waiter to charge it to Alcindoro. Soldiers parade by and the friends fall in behind. Alcindoro returns with the shoe as the parade departs.


At the toll gate.
Marcello lives at a tavern near the tollgate. Mimi wanders outside looking for his residence. When Marcello emerges she refuses to enter the tavern and recounts her distress over Rodolfo's jealousy and abandonment ("O buon Marcello, aiuto! - Oh, good Marcello, help me!"). Rodolfo, who was sleeping at the inn, comes out searching for Marcello and Mimi hides closely. Rodolpho reveals to the painter that he must give up Mimi because of her coquettishness, but then reveals the real reason: Rodolfo fears Mimi's coughing illness is getting worse in their poverty and she should be comforted by a wealthier suitor. A fit of coughing announces Mimi’s presence and the two sorrowfully agree to part (“Donde lieta uscì”). Marcello re-enters the tavern upon hearing Musetta's flirtatious laughter. While Mimi and Rodolfo gently recount their past happiness Musetta and Marcello enter fiercely quarrelling. In a quartet the painter and Musetta breakup while Mimi and Rodolfo agree to stay together until spring ("Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina! - Goodbye, sweet awakening in the morning!").

Act IV

Back in the garret.
Marcello and Rodolfo are bemoaning the loss of their respective beloved's. ("O Mimì, tu più non torni" -- O Mimì, will you not return?) Schaunard and Colline arrive and the four attempt to alleviate their poverty and sorrows with parodying a plentiful banquet. While engaged in this mock celebration Musetta appears announcing that Mimì is dying and she wants to return to the garret where she has been so happy. Rodolfo brings Mimi in and as he warms her hands Musetta gives her earrings to Marcello to sell and get money for a tonic. Colline takes Schaunard with him to to pawn his coat ("Vecchia zimarra - Old coat"). Musetta departs to retrieve a muff for Mimi's cold hands. The two lovers, left alone, recall their past happiness. ("Sono andati? - Have they gone?") The others anxiously return with the medicine and muff. Rodolpho, believing that Mimi is resting, leaves her bed, and while Musetta prays aloud, Mimi dies. The others try to keep it from Rodolfo but he soon discovers it and distraught falls upon his lovers lifeless body and cry's out her name.


Mimì, seamstress: Soprano
Musetta, singer: Soprano
Rodolfo, poet: Tenor
Marcello, painter: Baritone
Schaunard, musician: Baritone
Colline, philosopher: Bass
Benoît, their landlord: Bass
Alcindoro, state counselor: Bass
Parpignol, a street vendor: Tenor
A customs Sergeant: Bass
Chorus of students, working girls, townsfolk, shopkeepers, street-vendors, soldiers, waiters, children


The most famous musical pieces are:


"Che gelida manina" "Your tiny hand is frozen" (Rodolfo)
" Mi chiamano Mimì" - "They call me Mimì" (Mimì)
" O soave fanciulla" - "O gentle maiden" (Rodolfo & Mimì)


" Quando me'n vo soletta per la via" - "Musetta's Waltz (Musetta)


" Donde lieta uscì al tuo grido d'amore" - "Mimì's farewell (Mimì)

" O Mimì, tu più non torni" - "O Mimì, will you not return?" (Rodolfo & Marcello)
" Vecchia zimarra" - "Old coat" (Colline)
" Sono andati? Fingevo di dormire" - "Have they gone? I was pretending to sleep" (Mimì)




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