La Bohème at Danish Royal Opera Old Stage – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Giacomo Puccini| Lyrics: Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica after Henri Murgers novel ” Scenes de la vie bohème”.
First performance Turin, Teatro Regio den 1 februari 1896. Swedish première: Royal Opera in Stockholm 29 november 1901.
It is Christmas Eve. In an ice-cold room the painter Marcel works, while the poet Rodolphe looks out over the roofs of Paris. But when even the black humour of the two friends fails to relieve the cold, Rodolphe sacrifices his play: act after act, it goes up in flames. The philosopher Colline returns from an unsuccessful attempt to sell some cutlery. The musician Schaunard comes in with firewood, food and wine; he has earned money from a rich English milord by playing to a neighbour’s noisy parrot until it dropped dead. But he cheated, however, since he poisoned the parrot with parsley.The friends are more preoccupied with the delicacies than with the story; Schaunard stops them, putting the food aside for harder times. They are interrupted by the landlord, Benoit, who comes to demand his rent. They ply him with drink, and as he becomes talkative, they get it out of him that – athough married – he has difficulty resting the charms of young girls; full of pretended indignation the four friends throw him out of the door. After they have shared out the last of Schaunard’s money,they go down to celebrate Christmas Eve at the Cafe Momus. Rodolphe says he just has to finish a newspaper article and lets the others go on ahead. Hardly has he sat down to write when there is a knock at the door.It is the seamstress Mimi, who lives in the same house; she asks him to light her candle, which has gone out, but she sudenly has a fit of coughing and faints.Rodolphe revives her, gives her the candle and sees her out.But she comes back immediately, as she has dropped her key;now both their candles are blown out and they have to look for her key in the dark.When he finds the key, he quickly hides it; he seizes her hand and tells her about his life and his dreams. Mimi too talks about her simple, lonely life. From the street Rodolphe’s friends call, and he urges them to go on ahead. He declares his love for Mimi, then they go together to the Café Momus.
It is Christmas Eve on the Quais des Fleurs.Rodolphe introduces Mimi to his friends,who have settled themselves in front of the Cafe Momus, where they now order a lavish evening meal. Suddenly Musette, Marcel’s former sweethart, makes her entry accompanied by her new lover, the aging statecouncillor Alcindor. They sit down at the next table, but Marcel tries to ignore her.This irritates Musette, whose old love is aroused again, and she succeeds in capturing his heart with a seductive waltz tune.She finds a pretext to send Alcindor away,then throws herself into the arms of Marcel.When Alcindor comes back, he has to pay the bill for both tables.
A morning in early February outside a tavern at the city gates. Mimi is visiting Marcel, who lives here with Musette, to complain about Rodolphe’s jealousy: he has left her the previous day. When Rodolihe, who has spent the night in the tavern,comes out, Mimi hides to eavesdrop on the friends’ conversation. First Rodolphe complains about Mimi’s faithlessness; but soon afterwards he reveals that she is seriously ill, and that he cannot bear to see her suffering in the ice-cold apartment. Mimi’s coughing betrays her presence, and the two lovers promise to stay together until the spring before parting. At the same time a quarrel puts a temporary end to Marcel’s and Musette’s relationship: she neither can nor will be faithful.
Rodolphe and Marcel again sit working in their room, but neither of them can concenrate properly; Mimi and Musette have left them for rich lovers. Schaunard and Colline come home with herring and bread, and the friends work up rather artificial high spirits.Suddenly Musette comes in; she brings the dying Mimi who wants to see Rodolphe. Musette decides to sacrifice her earings, and Colline his cloak, to buy mediciie. Rodolphe is left alone with Mimi, and they remember their first meeting. The friends return with medicine. Musette with a muff- something Mimi has always wanted.Soon she drifts imperceptibly into unconsciousness and death.
Translation by James Manley