COMPOSED BY

Giacomo Puccini (Dec 1858 – Nov 1924) between 1893 and 1895

DURATION

Approximately 180 minutes (total 4 acts)

Instrumentation

1 piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 1 cor anglais, 2 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in F, 3 trombones, 1 bass trombone, timpani, percussions, strings, 1 harp. Off-stage band.

Roles

Mimì (soprano), Rodolfo (tenor), Musetta (soprano), Marcello (baritone), Schaunard (baritone), Colline (bass), Benoit (bass), Alcindoro (bass), Parpignol (tenor), Custom-house Sergeant (bass)

La Bohème

SUMMARY OF THE COMPOSITION

A group of penniless students in Paris counts on the joys of life as a relief from their daily misery. On a Christmas Eve, the seamstress Mimi offers a little warmth, tenderness and light to the poet Rodolfo. They fall in love at first sight and share their Christmas Eve’s love story with their friends. The painter Marcello and his saucy, former mistress Musetta form a bickering couple full of humour, which is in contrast with the melodramatic pair (Mimi and Rodolfo) that eventually breaks up as they no longer get along well. All along, Mimi knows she has tuberculosis and will be dying soon. Mimi stays on to die by Rodolfo’s side, with their bohemian friends who can do nothing to cure her.

1

Act 1

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.

2

Act 2

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.

3

Act 3

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.

4

Act 4

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.

WHO IS ... Giacomo Puccini?

Suprising fun facts

  • Puccini, worth an estimated $200 million, was the most successful commercial opera composer in the world.
  • He was diagnosed with throat cancer and took part in experimental radiation treatment. Unfortunately, he was too weak to handle the procedure and passed away seven days later.
  • Loved new inventions and modern technology and was a connoisseur of motor cars and speedboats.
  • Young Puccini was disinterested in music in general. He was also a poor student.
  • Puccini was known to be a playboy.

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