Perhaps the most beloved opera of all time, La bohème follows the adventures of a quartet of irrepressible and impoverished young Parisians. When the seamstress Mimì and the poet Rodolfo fall in love, the fragile nature of life and love follow the course of the changing seasons. The tenderly beautiful music, plays in counterpoint to the comic antics of the bohemians, creating an unforgettable and enduring masterpiece.
Act I – A Parisian apartment on Christmas Eve, 1830 The artist Marcello and poet Rodolfo try to keep warm by burning pages from Rodolfo’s latest drama. Their comrades Colline, a young philosopher and Schaunard, a musician, join them. Schaunard has landed a job and brings them food, fuel, and funds. While they celebrate, their landlord, Benoit, visits to collect the rent they owe. The friends engineer Benoit’s hasty departure and plan to reconvene at the Café Momus. Rodolfo stays behind to finish an article. No sooner is he alone than their neighbor Mimì knocks at the door; her candle has gone out. Rodolfo happily shares a flame from his own candle, but as she leaves, Mimì realizes she has lost her key. As they search, both candles are blown out. The poet takes the girl’s cold hand, telling her his dreams and she then recounts her life alone, embroidering flowers and waiting for spring. The pair marvel in the joy of love and finding each other and leave for the café. Act II – The Latin Quarter The streets of Paris are alive with holiday celebrations. Schaunard haggles for a new horn, Colline scouts for books, and Marcello pursues new subjects for his portraits. Rodolfo buys Mimì a bonnet near Café Momus before introducing her to his friends. As the four friends and Mimì sit down to order a healthy supper, Marcello’s former lover, Musetta, enters on the arm of wealthy Councilor Alcindoro. To gain the painter’s attention and stoke his jealousy, she sings a bawdy waltz about her popularity. Complaining that her shoe pinches, Musetta sends Alcindoro to fetch a new pair. Massaging her aching foot, she falls into Marcello’s arms reigniting their affections for each other. Joining a parade of marching soldiers, the Bohemians leave Alcindoro to pay the bill.
Act III – The Gates of Paris, February Street sweepers and farm women make their way into the city in the pre-dawn gloom. Musetta and revelers are heard inside a tavern. Mimì searches for Marcello to tell him of Rodolfo’s jealousy and her fear that they need to part. Marcello suggests she come inside, but she will not risk seeing Rodolfo, and pretends to leave. Rodolfo confesses to Marcello that he wants to separate from Mimì. When pressed for the reason, he breaks down: her ill health can only worsen in the poverty they share. Mimì overhears the conversation and begins to say farewell to Rodolfo, but instead they recall their happier days together. Musetta and Marcello’s quarrels reignite, and they again end their relationship in a fury. Mimì and Rodolfo decide to stay together at least until springtime. Act IV – The apartment, April Separated from their lovers, Rodolfo and Marcello lament their loneliness. Colline and Schaunard bring a meager meal, which evolves into a dance, and then a playful battle. Musetta bursts in to say Mimì is downstairs, too weak to climb the stairs and in need of a doctor. After being helped to the apartment, Mimi is made comfortable, Marcello goes with Musetta who has agreed to sell her earrings for medicine, and Colline leaves to pawn his cherished overcoat. Alone, Mimì and Rodolfo recall their first days together, but she is soon seized with coughing. Musetta returns with a muff to warm Mimì’s hands and prays for the girl’s life. All is in vain, Mimi has perished.