Opera in four acts
La Bohème is an opera based on Scènes de la vie de Bohème by Henri Murger. The world première of La bohème was performed in Turin on February 1, 1896 at the Teatro Regio (now the Teatro Regio Torino) and conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini.
Paris, at the end of the 19th century. A group of penniless students count on the joys of life for a little relief from their daily misery, as eating, keeping warm and paying the rent are a luxury! With her tenderness, the seamstress Mimi offers a little warmth and light to the poet Rodolfo. The two fall in love at first sight and tell their friends about their love on Christmas Eve. As for Marcello the painter and his saucy mistress Musetta, who are used to bickering, they form a contrasting couple full of humour, compared to the more melodramatic pair of Mimi and Rodolfo, who eventually break up because they no longer get along. In fact, Mimi knows she has tuberculosis and will soon die. Even though they have parted ways, she returns to die by Rodolfo’s side, among their bohemian friends, who can do nothing to cure her.
The day before Christmas in a poorly furnished mansard in the Paris Latin Quarter where the bohemians live. Rodolfo, the poet, and Marcello, the painter are shivering in the ice – gold room. They decide to sacrifice one of Rodolfo’s plays in their furnace and to get warm. Than comes Colline, the philosopher, nervous and angry since he could not pawn any of his books. The heat makes him full of joy. The fire produced by the play is accompanied by irony in the music and in the lyrics – the sense of humor is characteristic for the bohemians even in the moments of their deepest poverty. However, the play is short and the fire is gone. Nevertheless, the luck is back with Shaunard, the musician, who enters the room carrying a basket with firewood, food and vine. His character can be easily seen in his arioso when he tells the other how he got the money. It is the day – before – Christmas so the merry friends decide to spend the evening in the “Momus” bar. Their good mood is interrupted by the knocking on the door-Benoit, the landlord comes to collect the rent. The guys have no intention at all to pay the rent, and decide to trick him. They are pouring vine to the already juiced landlord. It is so easy to provoke him to start boasting about his love affairs and complaining about his wife. Well, the bohemians, pretending they were insulted by such immoral behavior, accuse him for debauchery. The drunk and confused Benoit is pushed out the door. The bohemians get back their money previously given to the landlord. Right after this Marcello, Schaunard and Colline leave to Café “Momus”, their favorite place. Rodolfo stays for a while until he finishes his latest work. His writing absorbed him by but a shy knock on the door awakes him. Mimi, the neighbor he never met before, comes asking for a favor: to light up a candle. She looses her consciousness due to her weakness. Rodolfo helps her and offers some vine. Her tender and beautiful appearance attracts him and tries to prolong her stay. Mimi says she is busy and is ready to leave when she notices that her key is gone. She had probably lost it the moment he lost her consciousness. She comes back in order to find it but the draft makes her candle gone one more time. The smart Rodolfo grabs the opportunity and turns down his candle too. Together, surrounded by darkness, start searching for the key. The destiny, with a little help from Rodolfo’s smartness, easily joins their hearts. Rodolfo while searching for the key touches Mimi’s hand in the darkness. That is the reason for one of the best-known arias “Che gelida manina” to be sang. He reveals his romantic, poetic nature and tells her that her beauty enchants him. His warmth affects her heart too so she is encouraged and sings “Si mi chiamano Mimi” an aria that depicts her simple dignity and steady nature. Rodolfo takes her in his arms and while singing the melodious dietto “O soave fanciulla” they leave the mansard to join his friends.