La Boheme



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

least attention.

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

awake them.

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.