"The highest purpose of poetry is to teach us to love."
- Rodolfo, La Bohème
The greatest love story in opera, La Bohème remains eternally young. Set to a ravishing score, Puccini's classic opera tells of the lives, loves, and losses of a group of young artists in a Bohemian quarter of Paris.
If you are new to opera, don't miss the chance to see why audiences have acclaimed this moving work for over a century. If you are an opera omnivore, revel in Puccini's lush lyricism, brought to life by a dynamic cast.
La Bohème simply has no equal. Come fall in love all over again.
Learn more about our cast!
* Madison Opera debut
Conductor: John DeMain
Director: David Lefkowich
Sung in Italian with projected English translations
Friday, November 13, 2015 | 8pm
Sunday, November 15, 2015 | 2:30pm
Opera Novice: What Makes an Opera a Classic? | October 23, 2015
Opera Up Close: La Bohème preview | November 8, 2015
Opera Talks: Pre-Opera lecture and Post-Opera Q&A session
The Story of the Opera
Paris, the 1830s.
In their Latin Quarter garret, the near-destitute
artist Marcello and poet Rodolfo try to keep warm on Christmas Eve by
feeding the stove with pages from Rodolfo’s latest drama. They are soon
joined by their roommates—Colline, a philosopher, and Schaunard, a
musician, who brings food, fuel, and funds he has collected from an
eccentric student. While they celebrate their unexpected fortune, the
landlord, Benoit, comes to collect the rent. After making the older man
drunk, they urge him to tell of his flirtations, then throw him out in
mock indignation at his infidelity to his wife. As his friends depart to
celebrate at the Café Momus, Rodolfo remains behind to finish an
article but promises to join them later. There is another knock at the
door—the visitor is Mimì, a pretty neighbor, whose candle has gone out
on the stairway. As she enters the room she suddenly feels faint.
Rodolfo gives her a sip of wine, then helps her to the door and relights
her candle. Mimì realizes she lost her key when she fainted, and as the
two search for it, both candles are blown out. Rodolfo finds the key
and slips it into his pocket. In the moonlight, he takes Mimì’s hand and
tells her about his dreams. She recounts her life alone in a lofty
garret, embroidering flowers and waiting for the spring. Rodolfo’s
friends are heard outside, calling him to join them. He responds that he
is not alone and will be along shortly. Happy to have found each other,
Mimì and Rodolfo embrace and leave, arm in arm, for the café.
Amid the shouts of street hawkers near the Café Momus, Rodolfo buys
Mimì a bonnet and introduces her to his friends. They all sit down and
order supper. The toy vendor Parpignol passes by, besieged by children.
Marcello’s former sweetheart, Musetta, makes a noisy entrance on the arm
of the elderly but wealthy Alcindoro. The ensuing tumult reaches its
peak when, trying to gain Marcello’s attention, she sings a waltz about
her popularity. Complaining that her shoe pinches, she sends Alcindoro
off to fetch a new pair. The moment he is gone, she falls into
Marcello’s arms and tells the waiter to charge everything to Alcindoro.
Soldiers march by the café, and as the bohemians fall in behind,
Alcindoro rushes back with Musetta’s shoes.
At dawn on the snowy outskirts of Paris, a customs official admits
farm women to the city. Guests are heard drinking and singing within a
tavern. Mimì arrives, searching for the place where Marcello and Musetta
now live. When the painter appears, she tells him of her distress over
Rodolfo’s incessant jealousy. She says she believes it is best that they
part. Rodolfo, who has been asleep in the tavern, comes outside. Mimì
hides nearby, though Marcello thinks she has left. Rodolfo tells his
friend that he wants to separate from Mimì, blaming her flirtatiousness.
Pressed for the real reason, he breaks down, saying that her coughing
can only grow worse in the poverty they share. Overcome with emotion,
Mimì comes forward to say goodbye to her lover. Marcello runs back into
the tavern upon hearing Musetta’s laughter. While Mimì and Rodolfo
recall past happiness, Marcello returns with Musetta, quarreling about
her flirting with a customer. They hurl insults at each other and part,
but Mimì and Rodolfo decide to remain together until spring.
Months later in the garret, Rodolfo and Marcello, now separated from
their girlfriends, lament their loneliness. Colline and Schaunard bring
a meager meal. To lighten their spirits the four stage a dance, which
turns into a mock duel. At the height of the hilarity Musetta bursts in
with news that Mimì is outside, too weak to come upstairs. As Rodolfo
runs to her aid, Musetta relates how Mimì begged to be taken to Rodolfo
to die. She is made as comfortable as possible, while Musetta asks
Marcello to sell her earrings for medicine and Colline goes off to pawn
his overcoat. Left alone, Mimì and Rodolfo recall their meeting and
their first happy days, but she is seized with violent coughing. When
the others return, Musetta gives Mimì a muff to warm her hands and prays
for her life. Mimì slowly drifts into unconsciousness. Schaunard
realizes that she is dead, and Rodolfo is left desperate.
~Courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera