La Bohème

Music and Libretto by

Ruggero Leoncavallo



Marcello, tenore
Rodolfo, baritono
Schaunard, baritono
Barbemuche, basso
Visconte Paolo, baritono
Gustavo Colline, baritono
Gaudenzio, tenore
Durand, tenore
Il signor del primo piano, tenore

Musetta, mezzo-soprano
Mimì, soprano
Eufemia, mezzo-soprano

Summary of the Plot:

Christmas Eve, 1837, Paris. A room on the second floor of the Café Momus. Although Gaudenzio, the proprietor of the Café Momus is lecturing Schaunard because his Bohemian friends are spending no money while using his premises, Schaunard promises that there is money to be made that evening, when a celebration he is hosting will bring many customers. The guests arrive: Rodolfo, a poet ("with clothes and a purse to prove it"), Marcello, a painter (who has had the nerve to paint nude models in the café!), and Colline, a philosopher who pulls a Chinese dictionary and an Iliad in Greek from his coattails; they are joined by Eufemia, Schaunard's mistress, and the flower girl, Mimì (who is Rodolfo's). Mimì has brought her friend Musetta, with whom Marcello falls in love almost immediately. Musetta sings a lovely song about her friend ("Mimì Pinson the little blonde one"), and charms everyone. The bill remains to be paid at the end of the party, however, and circumstances are threatened when no one can do so. A well-to-do stranger who apparently wants to join in with this Bohemian circle seizes this opportunity and offers to pay. Schaunard will not hear of it, and only will accept the money after winning it "legitimately" at a game of billiards. He does so, amid the cries of "Christmas!" by the guests.

The courtyard of Musetta's house in the Rue Bruyère.
It is evening, and as the curtain rises, the concierge Durand is tossing all of Musetta's possessions out into the street. She has been living off the attentions of a rich banker, who has now had enough of her unfaithfulness to him. It does not deter the Bohemians from having a celebration that evening, out there in the courtyard, with Musetta's furniture (including a pianoforte, upon which Shaunard performs). During the party, Mimì decides to leave Rodolfo for a certain Count Paolo, and does so quietly, as the neighbors threaten the noisy partygoers, finally chasing them all off.

October, 1838; in Marcello's attic room.
Marcello and Rodolfo are attempting to find work to raise some money, but are unsuccessful. The happy bohemian life is turning into a very serious affliction. Musetta decides to leave Marcello for another rich admirer, and although Mimì tries to reconcile herself to Rodolfo, she is angrily rebuffed by him, and the two men are left alone, starving, jealous, bitter and resentful. In a heartbreaking aria, "Testa adorata," Marcello weeps for his loss.

Rodolfo's attic room, Christmas Eve, 1838.
Becoming poorer and poorer, it is no longer a question of posing insouciantly for those in established society: their deprivations are severe, in the depths of winter. Marcello and Rodolfo are eating their Christmas meal, such as it is, and have invited Musetta to join them. However, it is Mimì who appears, ill and dying. Her rich lover has abandoned her, and they have thrown her out of the hospital ward, as she had no means to pay. Finally, Musetta does arrive, and seeing the horrible circumstances under which they are all suffering, she pawns all her jewels to pay for a doctor. For Mimì, however, it is too late. As the bells toll for Christmas morning, Mimì sits up, and mumuring "Christmas..." falls back and dies.

Bonisolli, Weikl, Miltcheva, Popp; dir. Wallberg - Orfeo S 023823, 1982; LP and CD.

Malagnini, Summers, Senn, Malagnini; dir. Latham-Koenig - Nuova Era 6917/19, 1990, live, CD

Mazzini, Cioni, Annaloro, Malta, Casei, Medici - dir. Zedda; Everest 1957.

More on this opera from the Publisher, Casa Musicale Sonzogno.
Back to Operatic Research.

Entered by John Mucci Feb.3, 1996, Oct 10, 2004.