Composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
Four-act opera (1896)
The Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, after the novel “Scènes de la vie de bohème” by the French writer Henri Murger
The opera is performed in Italian, over-titrated in Romanian.
If I was not afraid to say big words, I would not hesitate to say that Boema is a masterpiece. (Ricordi Editor, 1896)
In the impoverished attic where they live, poet Rodolfo and painter Marcello try to forget the hunger and the cold that does not let them work. To warm up the atmosphere, Rodolfo fills the stove with the pages of his manuscript. The other two friends and neighbors of the attic arrive, Colline, the philosopher and Schaunard the musician, who brings a basket of supplies to their joy and surprise. The good mood is disturbed by the appearance of the owner, Benoît, who has come to demand the unpaid rent owed long ago. Serving him with a glass of wine, the boys let him talk about his love affairs, then, pretending to be outraged, they threw him out and get ready to continue their little party at Café Momus. Meanwhile, Colline and Schaunard are leaving, but Rodolfo is left behind to write something, and going to reach them there soon. A slight knock on the door interrupts his work: it’s Mimi, a young neighbor who asks him to allow him to light his candle. A strong sense of admission makes her lose her knowledge as she prepares to leave. Impressed by the delicate and facile appearance of the young woman, Rodolfo retains and tells him about his life and aspirations. Then the young girl talks about her, her retired life, her concerns, and her little joy. The candles are extinguished and, in the moonlight, hand in hand, Mimi and Rodolfo feel their hearts full of love. They go together to “Café Momus” where Rodolfo’s friends are.
Amidst the merry noise of shoppers and street vendors in the Latin Quarter, Rodolfo buys Mimi a bonnet. Then they meet the three friends, whom Rodolfo introduces to Mimi as his muse. They all sit at a table while the toy seller Parpignol sits in the crowd. But everyone’s attention is drawn to Musetta, Marcello’s ex-girlfriend, who appears in an elegant toilet on the arm of a rich old man, Alcindoro. Seeing Marcello, with whom she had the same love, and wanting to be noticed, she sings a waltz in which she highlights her grace and coquetry. They both want to look indifferent, but neither of them manages to hide their true feelings. Musetta removes her companion under the pretext and goes to her boyfriend. The payment of the bill for the entire consumption is left to the old Alcindoro.
It’s winter. On the peripheries of Paris, in front of an inn, Mimi came to look for Marcello to ask for his advice: she is no longer happy with Rodolfo which, lately looks at her with suspicious attention, with a jealousy that torments her. Rodolfo’s voice makes her hide. He tells Marcello that he intends to break up with Mimi, because she is unfaithful to him; but, unable to hide the truth, he bitterly confesses that this coexistence in poverty aggravates Mimi’s relentless illness, and therefore feels compelled to leave her to spare her health. Hearing his words from where she was hiding, Mimi in tears, but with a peaceful heart, rans into the arms of her lover who had not deceived her love. Musetta comes out of the inn arguing with Marcello. The painter reprimands the easy-going Musetta for her unbelief and frivolity, while Mimi and Rodolfo remember the beautiful moments of the past. They leave embraced, determined to postpone their separation until spring.
ACT IV In the small attic, Rodolfo and Marcello, separated from their lovers for a while, feel the sadness of loneliness. The other two friends arrive, Colline and Schaunard, who are sidelined because of lack of work and poverty. But trained in jokes about the misery they live in, young people start a quadrille, imagining a real salon in the narrow and poor attic. When the joy is in full swing, Musetta appears without breath, telling them that Mimi, who is seriously ill, is waiting down, too week to climb the stairs alone. Rodolfo runs to help her, while Musetta tells the others that poor Mimi, feeling her close end, has kept wanting to seeing her boyfriend for the last time. Musetta goes with Marcello to sell her earrings to buy medication, and Colline has to say goodbye to the old and only coat he has, that he will sell in order to help his friends.Remaining alone, Mimi and Rodolfo remember their first encounter, the first gift, the joys and troubles that united them. The friends return and give the patient what she always wanted – a sleeve that would warm her hands. Mimi looks happy. After a moment of silence and hope … in vain, Rodolfo shouts her name in tears. Mimi’s dead.