's 1896 opera La Bohčme
, loosely based on the novel Scčnes de la vie de bohčme
by Henri Murger, is one of the best-loved and most frequently performed operas today. It is also the (even looser) basis for the Rock Opera Rent
It is Christmas Eve in Paris in 1830. Marcello, a painter, Rodolfo, a poet, Schaunard, a musician, and Colline, a philosopher, are cheerfully living the Bohemian life together in their garret apartment. Schaunard has brought home a veritable fortune from a musical job (the murder of an annoying parrot), and after a close call with the landlord collecting rent, they decide to go out and celebrate. Rodolfo stays behind a few minutes to finish writing an article, and his beautiful and pure-hearted upstairs neighbor Mimě enters, asking for a light for her candle. The two promptly fall in love.
In the second act, the five friends go out on the town together. Rodolfo and Mimě revel in their new love, but Marcello acts cynical, because he has had his heart broken in the past. At the café, they notice Marcello's old flame Musetta with a rich and boring old man, and she begins engaging in all sorts of histrionics to get Marcello's attention. He resists her charms at first, but soon gives in, and the six of them leave in triumph after pushing off their check onto Musetta's date.
The third act takes place after a span of several months: Mimě shows up early one morning at the inn where Marcello and Musetta have found work, and tells Marcello that Rodolfo has abandoned her, after behaving cruelly and being suspicious of her. Then Rodolfo, who is already sleeping inside, shows up, causing Mimě to hide. He complains of Mimě's infidelity and flirtatiousness, but then reveals the real reason for his leaving: Mimě is seriously ill, and he cannot stand to see her waste away in his cold room. After Mimě reveals herself by a fit of coughing, she and Rodolfo embrace, and agree to break up so that Mimě can find a wealthier lover—but because winter is so lonely, they will stay together until spring! Meanwhile, Marcello confronts Musetta about her flirting with other men, and they also break up in a violent argument.
Act Four begins back in the garret, with Rodolfo and Marcello both lamenting their lost loves. The mood brightens when Schaunard and Colline arrive with some bread, and the four friends gaily parody an upper-class banquet, complete with dancing and dueling. The fun is interrupted when Musetta arrives with the news that Mimě has collapsed on the stairs. The others band together to save her: Musetta pawns her earrings and Colline his coat. Mimě and Rodolfo are left alone together for the last time to recall their love and happiness. The others return with medicine and a muff for Mimě's cold hands, but it is too late. Mimě dies, and the opera ends with Rodolfo crying out her name over the body.La Bohčme
has been adapted for other media many times, including a 1926 film (silent! no music!) starring Lillian Gish
This work contains examples of:
- Author Avatar: Henri Murger, author of the novel, actually served as the basis of Rodolfo, and some of his other Bohemians appear in fictional form in the opera.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Marcello and Musetta.
- Beta Couple: Marcello and Musetta
- Break Her Heart to Save Her: Rodolfo, knowing that he cannot take care of the fatally ill Mimě, briefly pretends to be cold and heartless with her.
- Compressed Adaptation
- Coupled Couples
- Downer Ending
- Femme Fatale: Musetta.
- Fiery Redhead: In many adaptions Musetta is depicted as this.
- "I Am" Song: "Che gelida manina"/"Mi chiamano Mimě".
- Ill Girl: Oh, Mimě.
- I'm Cold... So Cold...: Invoked, then poignantly subverted. As she lies dying, Mimě is 'cold, so cold' and longs at least to warm her hands. Her friends rush out to buy her a fur muff. She is happy, and murmurs as she drifts off to sleep that she feels warm at last. These are her last words - she dies quietly, while the dramatic focus is on the other characters.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Mimě. This horrible lung ailment does not prevent her from singing fortissimo, however.
- Innocent Flower Girl
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy
- Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone
- Lethal Diagnosis
- Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Quando m'en vo"/"Chi l'ha richiesto?"
- Meaningful Echo: Several. On her deathbed, Mimě explicitly quotes from "Che gelida manina" and "Mi chiamano Mimě" as she recalls how she and Rodolfo met; and at the very end, the music echoes the "Addio, addio" from the end of "Vecchia zimarra, senti".
- Meet Cute: Mimě and Rodolfo meet when she wants to ask him to light her candle and they end up in complete darkness.
- Minor Character, Major Song: Parpignol.
- Mood Dissonance: "Dunque č propio finita!"
- Mood Whiplash: "Si sgombrino le sale!"/"C'č Mimě... c'č Mimě che me segue".
- Please Wake Up
- Say My Name: A Tear Jerker at the end of the opera.
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Rodolfo and Mimě in Act II.
- Starving Artist
- Those Two Guys: Schaunard and Colline.
- Tsundere: Musetta, and how.
- Victorian Novel Disease Sort of: as it's Very Loosely Based on a True Story, it is a real disease- tuberculosis- and the progression is more realistic than many depictions of it.
- Voice Types:
- Rodolfo - tenor
- Marcello - baritone
- Schaunard - baritone
- Colline - bass. This opera features the first and last bass-only aria written by Puccini, "Vecchia zimarra senti".
- Mimě - soprano
- Musetta - soprano
- Writer's Block: "Non sono in vena!"