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“La Bohème” by Giacomo Puccini
One of the most performed operas in the world
“La Bohème” by Giacomo Puccini is a milestone in the world opera repertoire. This opera debuted in Turin in 1896 under the direction of Arturo Toscanini.

Based on the novel “Scènes de la vie de Bohème” (Scenes of Bohemian Life) by Henri Murger, “La Bohème” is set in 1830s Paris, in the Latin Quarter, except for the third act, which takes place on the outskirts of city. The Latin Quarter, at the time, was a refuge for artists, musicians and young people without families, known for cheap housing, and for the widespread presence of entertainment and prostitution.

The opera opens without an overture, immersing us directly in the drama of the first act, on Christmas Eve in the Latin Quarter. Rodolfo, a poet, and Marcello, a painter, share an apartment in an attic. The cold is unbearable and, having no money for firewood, they decide to burn the manuscript of Rodolfo's new novel. Colline, a philosopher, and Schaunard, a musician, arrive, bringing food, wine and wood. The evening takes an unexpected turn with the arrival of Mimì, the neighbor, who asks Rodolfo to light her candle. From here begins one of the most famous love stories in operatic literature.

Musically, the opera is an exquisite example of Puccini's talent for catchy melodies and rich orchestration. Songs like:

First Act: Rodolfo's famous aria "What a Cold Hand" And "They call me Mimi” by Mimi.

Second Act: Musetta's aria “When I leave

Third Act: Mimì's moving aria “Whence she happily came out

Fourth Act: The duet “Oh Mimì you're never coming back” and the heartbreaking ending have become opera standards.

Giacomo Puccini had written his first real hit, “Manon Lescaut“, three years earlier, but with “La Boheme” really hit the mark. The public was overwhelmed, and although the critics were not entirely enthusiastic at first, they soon had to change their opinion, as the success continued, and continues to this day.

There is more

The librettists, Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, who also wrote Puccini's second and third operas, “Tosca” and “Madame Butterfly,” had difficulties with the text. The novel is more like a collection of short stories with many characters, after all Mimì's death is not the main plot. In fact, they had a fifth act in mind, to be placed between the second and third, which would have explained Rodolfo's comment about a Viscount courting Mimì. But Puccini didn't include it!

Other information

In the image: Adolf Hohenstein, sketch for the first performance of La bohème (panel II), 1896

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