Adapted from HENRY MURGER'S VIE DE BOHEME.
Music by GIACOMO PUCCINI.
This opera was composed in 1896, and the music is of a far higher order
than that of "La Tosca", particularly the love scenes.--
La Boheme grows on one more and more, the oftener one hears it; but
such bits as Musette's waltz, the quartet and the love duet in the last
act cannot fail to appeal to
everybody. The composer has given a most
realistic subject a highly poetic setting.
The first act opens in a garret in Paris, in about 1830, and shows us
Rudolph the painter and Marcel the poet, from whose Bohemian mode of
life the opera derives its name, at work. Alas, there is no fire in
the grate and the cold is so intense, that Marcel is about to break up
a chair for firewood.--
Rudolph prevents him and kindles a fire with his manuscript instead,
crying: "My drama shall warm us". The second act of the manuscript
follows the first one, by the blaze of which the artists joyfully warm
their half frozen hands. The paper is quickly burnt to ashes, but
before they have time to lament this fact the door is opened by
two boys bringing food, fuel, wine and even money. Schaunard, a
musician brings up the rear to whom neither Marcel nor Rudolph pay the
It seems, that an Englishman engaged Schaunard to sing to his parrot
till it dies, but after three days Schaunard becomes so heartily sick
of his task, that he poisons the bird and runs away.
He suggests that they all go out for supper it being Christmas Eve.
They decide to drink some of the wine first, but they are interrupted
by the landlord, who demands his quarter's rent. He soon imbibes so
much of the wine, that he becomes intoxicated and correspondingly
jovial.--After joking him about his love adventures he finds himself
standing outside the door in pitch darkness. The others meanwhile
prepare to go out to supper, with the exception of Rudolph who remains
behind to finish a manuscript article.
A pretty young girl soon knocks, carrying a candle and a key. He begs
her to come in and be seated and she swoons while refusing. He revives
her with some wine, and she goes off with her relighted candlestick,
but forgets her key, which she has dropped in her swoon, and for which
she at once comes back. A draught blows out the candle and Rudolph
keeps the key, while pretending to look for it.--Suddenly he clasps the
girl's hand and he and she exchange confidences, while confessing their
love for each other.
When Rudolph's friends call him he invites Mimi, who is a flower girl,
to accompany him.
The second act takes place before the well known Cafe Momus in the
Quartier Latin, where Rudolph and Mimi join Schaunard and Marcel.
Rudolph has bought her a pink bonnet and introduces her to his friends,
the fourth of whom is Colline the Philosopher.
The party eat and drink amid the noise and bustle of the fair, when
Marcel suddenly sees his old love Musette, gorgeously arrayed and
leaning upon the arm of an old man. Marcel turns pale, while his
friends make fun of the fantastic couple, much to Musette's anger. She
at once begins to make overtures to Marcel, who feigns utter
indifference.--Musette's old admirer orders supper, in the hope of
pacifying her, while she addresses Marcel in fond whispers. The others
watch the scene with amusement, but Rudolph devotes all his attentions
to Mimi. Musette suddenly complains, that her shoes hurt her and sends
her aged lover off for another pair. Then she proceeds to make friends
with Marcel. When the waiter brings the bill, Musette tells him, that
the old gentleman will settle for everything after his return.
The party profits by the approach of the patrol, who causes a turmoil,
in the midst of which they all escape. Alcindor the old admirer finds
only two bills awaiting him, when he returns with the new shoes.
Musette has been carried away shoeless by her old friend.
The third scene takes place on the outskirts of Paris called "Barriere
de l'Enfer", (The Toll Gate of Hell). To the left there is a tavern,
over which hangs Marcel's picture "The Crossing of the Red Sea", as a
sign board. The day is breaking, the customhouse officials are still
sleeping around the fire, but the scavengers coming from Chantilly soon
The gate is opened to admit milk-women, carters, peasants with baskets
and finally Mimi.
She looks wretched and is at once seized with a terrible fit of
coughing. As soon as she can speak, she asks the name of the tavern,
where she knows Marcel is working. When he emerges from the inn she
implores his help, saying Rudolph is killing her by his insane
jealousy. Marcel promises to intervene, and when Rudolph comes out of
the tavern Mimi hides behind the trees.
She hears Rudolph say, she is doomed to die, and coughs and sobs so
violently, that her presence is revealed.
Rudolph remorsefully takes the poor weak creature in his arms, and they
decide to make it up.
Their reconciliation is interrupted by Marcel, who is upbraiding
Musette. This flighty damsel has one lover after another, although she
really loves Marcel alone.
The fourth and last scene takes us back to the garret, where Marcel and
Rudolph are alone, Musette and Mimi having left them. They each kiss
mementos of their lady-loves when Schaunard appears with bread
and herring. Gayety is soon restored and a regular frolic takes place.
Musette enters in a state of great agitation, to say, that Mimi, who is
in the last stage of consumption is there and wants to see Rudolph once
more. The latter carries her on the little bed. As there is nothing
in the house, with which to revive her, Musette decides to sell her
earrings in order to procure medicines, a doctor and and a muff, for
which Mimi longs.
Schaunard also goes out, so that the lovers are left alone.--A touching
scene follows, when Rudolph shows Mimi the pink bonnet he has cherished
all the time. Musette and Marcel soon return with medicines and a
muff, upon which Mimi sinks into the sleep from which there is no
awakening with a sweet smile of satisfaction.