Mimì (soprano), Rodolfo (tenor), Musetta (soprano), Marcello (baritone), Schaunard (baritone), Colline (bass), Benoit (bass), Alcindoro (bass), Parpignol (tenor), Custom-house Sergeant (bass)
It is Christmas Eve in Paris. Four bohemian students – the poet Rodolfo, the painter Marcello, the musician Schaunard and the philosopher Colline – are starving. All except Rodolfo, who needs to finish writing an article, leave to spend the evening out. Rodolfo is interrupted by the seamstress Mimi, who came looking for some matches to light her candle. It is a cold night and Mimi and Rodolfo huddle together to keep themselves warm. They share with each other their stories in two touching arias.
Mimi and Rodolfo meet their friends at Café Momus. They are joined by Marcello’s former mistress, Musetta, who is now in the arms of the rich, old man Alcindoro. Through jealousy, snide remarks and reconciliations, the saucy Musetta goes to great lengths to reclaim the attention of Marcello who is still in love with her.
While Marcello and Musetta spend their time bickering, Mimi and Rodolfo are the complete opposite. Mimi is flirtatious, and Rodolfo is jealous. Mimi knows she will be dying soon as she has tuberculosis. She bids farewell to her lover, but they decide to stay together until the spring before separating for good.
The spring arrives after several months. Mimi and Rodolfo are unable to forget their lost loves. Musetta arrives with Mimi, who is dying. Her friends pawn their little belongings to buy her medicine, but nothing can be done to cure her. After singing their goodbyes, Mimi confesses she still loves Rodolfo. She then lapses into unconsciousness. Rodolfo breaks down in tears, shouting “Mimi! Mimi!” in a desperate voice.