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La Bohème

Giacomo Puccini 1858-1924

Opera in four acts
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica
First performed February 1st 1896, Teatro Regio, Turin

Sung in Italian with German surtitles. c. 2 hrs 30 mins, including one interval

Mimì Simone Mihai / Olesya Golovneva
Rodolfo Piero Pretti / Dimitri Pittas / Mario Chang
Marcello Iurii Samoilov
Musetta Elizabeth Sutphen* / Sydney Mancasola
Schaunard Björn Bürger / Ludwig Mittelhammer*
Colline Kihwan Sim / Daniel Miroslaw
Benoît Franz Mayer

* Member of the Opera Studio

La Bohème is regarded as one of the most important works in the Italian repertoire and is one of the most performed operas in the world. Some passages in the opera appear, at first sight, light-weight – with an episodic construction and conversation style - but bitter reality lurks behind it all: enbedded in the three-dimensional portrayal of a group of impoverished artist friends just before Christmas in Paris in 1830 is a sensitive love story between the poet Rodolfo and Mimì, who is mortally ill. While the characters in the opera are concerned mainly by the triviality of day to day life, they are still unworldly dreamers. The director Alfred Kirchner, who was interested in the discrepancies between dream and reality and the themes of decline and loss, brings the tragedy to life in exciting and historically correct scenes.

Christmas Eve. Four friends share an attic in Paris. Rodolfo (poet) and Marcello (painter) are so cold they burn Rodolfo’s manuscript. Colline (philosopher) arrives. Things look up when Schaunard (musician) arrives, having been paid handsomely by a client, with food, wine and fuel. He suggests that they go out to dine. The landlord, demanding his rent, boasts of his amorous adventures. Feigning outrage they throw him out. Rodolfo must work a bit. The others leave. Mimi knocks at the door asking for a light for her candle. She leaves, returning immediately looking for her key. While searching for it their hands touch. Her hand is cold. He dreams of being a poet, she tells him about her embroidery and longing for spring. Mimi and Rodolfo declare their love. ACT 2 Rodolfo introduces Mimi to his friends. Marcello is brooding about Musetta, who left him for rich Alcindoro. His mood worsens when he sees them together. She tries to make Marcello jealous, he tries to ignore her. Musetta, taunting Marcello, squeals out that her shoes are hurting and sends Alcindoro off to buy a new pair. She flings herself into Marcello’s arms. They have no money to pay the bill. Musetta tells the waiter him to add it to hers. Everybody leaves in the soldiers' wake. Alcindoro returns and is horrified by the size of his bill. ACT 3 A year later. City boundary. Market women are admitted. Musetta and others are heard carousing in the tavern. Mimi asks that Marcello be told that she is looking for him. Marcello invites her in. She refuses when told Rodolfo is there. She says that she and Rodolfo should separate because of his jealousy. Rodolfo comes out. Mimi hides. He says that he must leave Mimi because she is a flirt. He loves her but is afraid that she will get very ill in their cold room. Mimi emerges and asks Rodolfo to wrap up her belongings. She will send for them. They sing a tender farewell. Marcello and Musetta row and split up. ACT 4 6 months later. Marcello and Rodolfo muse on memories of their loves. Schaunard and Colline arrive with bread and 1 herring. They approach this repast with mock solemnity, then pretend to take dance partners. Musetta tells them that Mimi is outside and very ill. Musetta tells Marcello to sell her earrings and buy medicine while she goes to fetch a muff. Colline sings a farewell to his overcoat, before selling it. He suggests that Mimi and Rodolfo be left alone. They recall the happy times spent together. The others return. Musetta pretends the muff is from Rodolfo. Marcello brings medicine. Schaunard notices that Mimi has died. Rodolfo rushes to the bed. He clasps Mimi to his breast.