La bohème (Leoncavallo)
La bohème is an Italian opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 in four acts, with music and libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Ruggero Leoncavallo was an Italian opera composer. His two-act work Pagliacci remains one of the most popular works in the repertory, appearing as number 20 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.-Biography:...

, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème
La Vie de Bohème
La Vie de Bohème is a work by Henry Murger, published in 1851. Although it is commonly called a novel, it doesn't follow a standard novel form. Rather, it is a collection of loosely related stories, all set in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1840s, romanticizing bohemian life in a playful way...

 by Henri Murger
Henri Murger
Louis-Henri Murger, also known as Henri Murger and Henry Murger was a French novelist and poet....

. The opera received its premiere at the Teatro la Fenice
La Fenice
Teatro La Fenice is an opera house in Venice, Italy. It is one of the most famous theatres in Europe, the site of many famous operatic premieres. Its name reflects its role in permitting an opera company to "rise from the ashes" despite losing the use of two theatres...

, Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 on May 6, 1897.

Leoncavallo wrote his opera La bohème contemporaneously with Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was an Italian composer whose operas, including La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot, are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire...

's own treatment
La bohème
La bohème is an opera in four acts,Puccini called the divisions quadro, a tableau or "image", rather than atto . by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger...

 of the same story. Leoncavallo later revised the work, titling it Mimi Pinson, but it fared no better. Puccini's version has become a standard in the operatic repertoire, whereas Leoncavallo's opera is rarely performed. Leoncavallo's version did not receive its UK premiere until May 1970.

Allan Atlas has analysed in detail the different treatments of the death of the Mimi character in both Leoncavallo's and Puccini's versions of La bohème, contrasting the historical success of Puccini's opera and the relative failure of Leoncavallo's.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, May 6, 1897
(Conductor: Alessandro Pomè)
Schaunard, a musician baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

Jacques [Gianni] Isnardon
Marcello, a painter tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

Giovanni Beduschi
Rodolfo, a poet baritone Rodolfo Angelini-Fornari
Mimi soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

Rosina Storchio
Rosina Storchio
Rosina Storchio was an important Italian lyric soprano who starred in the world premieres of operas by Puccini, Leoncavallo, Mascagni and Giordano...

Musetta mezzo-soprano
A mezzo-soprano is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above...

Elisa "Lison" Frandin
Gaudenzio tenor Enrico Giordani
Loafer tenor
Colline, a philosopher baritone Lucio Aristi
Eufemia mezzo-soprano Clelia Cappelli
Barbemuche bass Giuseppe Frigiotti
Durand tenor Enrico Giordani
Students, working girls, townsfolk, shopkeepers, street-vendors,
soldiers, waiters, women and children - chorus

Act 1

Café Momus

The innkeeper Gaudenzio tries in vain to eject the Bohemians, who never pay and are continually up to no good. During the conversation another piece of horseplay on their part is discovered. They sit down to dine, while Musetta gaily sings. (Canzonette: "Mimi is the name of my sweet blonde.") Naturally when they are asked to pay the bill, they have no money. A comic fight ensues between them and the innkeeper, who has called his servants to assist him. It is ended by Barbemuche, who offers to pay the bill.

Act 2

The courtyard of Musetta's house

Musetta's lover has left her, refusing any longer to pay her debts. In consequence, her furniture has been confiscated and it is carried down to the courtyard. When this has been done, she returns home. She expects guests but cannot entertain them in any other way than by receiving them in the courtyard. Here the Bohemians, who arrive in large numbers, celebrate joyously. The neighbours, awakened from sleep, protest in vain and the scene ends in a general fight between the two factions.

Act 3

Marcello's garret room

Musetta, who can no longer bear the sufferings of hunger and want, determines to leave Marcello. During the festivities in the courtyard, Mimi has allowed herself to be carried off by Count Paul, but she returns, motivated by love for Rodolfo. Musetta begs her to go with her, but she refuses. Angrily, Marcello and Rodolfo force both women to leave the apartment.

Act 4

Rodolfo's garret room

Mimi returns to Rodolfo, at the brink of death. Musetta, who accidentally meets her there, sacrifices her jewels to procure fuel to warm the room for Mimi. As the Christmas chimes are heard, Mimi dies.

Noted arias

  • "Musetta!...Testa adorata" (Marcello)
  • "Musetta svaria sulla bocca viva" (Mimì)
  • "Da quel suon soavemente" (Musetta)
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