La Bohème, Opera by G. Puccini
Giacomo Puccini hits all the marks of his inimitable style in La Bohème, one of his first mature operas. The arias cover a range of emotions, from playful to heartbroken and from life-affirming to devastating, and the orchestration is intimately connected to the on-stage action. Guests of Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence are in for a very special treat!
Based on excerpts from Henri Murger’s story collection Scènes de la vie de bohème, the sweet romance between the aspiring poet Rodolfo and the seamstress Mimí unfolds against the backdrop of bohemian life in Paris – plagued by perpetual poverty and yet glamorous and refined in its very own way. Although they fall in love at first sight and seem made for one another, the love pair must part ways, to the chagrin of their motley crew of friends.
To protect Mimí’s failing health, Rodolfo pushes her away, so she can find a wealthier suitor to support her in the battle against tuberculosis. Alas, that battle is already lost, and months later the dying Mimí returns to their old home where she quietly passes away in the arms of Rodolfo, her one true love.
La Bohème is classic Puccini from every angle. It is one of his many highly successful collaborations with librettists Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Ilica whose dynamic and dramatic storytelling is a perfect match for the Maestro’s impassioned and involved score. The orchestral passages are rich with musical foreshadowing and attach unique themes to each character, a clever musical device that pulls the audience even deeper into the plot development.
The major characters enjoy memorable solo numbers (e.g., ‘Si, mi chiamano Mimí’, ‘Donde lieta usci’) and duets (e.g., ‘O soave fanciulla’) where melodies and moods change from flirtatious to wistful, to loving and tragic, demonstrating Puccini’s complete mastery of musical expression.
It is notable that Puccini was not too excited about the prospect of creating La Bohème, expressing distaste for the melodramatic plot. However, as soon as he found out that Ruggero Leoncavallo was adapting the same source text, the Maestro rolled up his sleeves and invested all his creative energy into the project.
Puccini’s La Bohème premiered on 1 February 1896 at Teatro Reggio in Turin and instantly claimed its permanent place in the operatic repertoire.