La bohème synopsis
La bohème synopsis
Music by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Libretto by the composer after Henry Murger’s Scènes de la view de bohème
First performed: 1897
Christmas Eve, Paris, upstairs at the Café Momus
The proprietor, Gaudenzio, is angry with Schaunard and his friends as they make a habit of not paying their bills. Schaunard assures him that tonight will be different. It is soon established that no one has any money, but they decide to order dinner anyway. They are joined by Eufemia (Schaunard’s girlfriend) and Mimì (Rodolfo’s girlfriend), who have brought along Musetta, currently mistress to a banker. When the bill arrives, Schaunard is sent down to negotiate delaying payment with Gaudenzio. A quarrel ensues. Barbemuche, a mysterious figure who dines alone, offers to pay their bill. They refuse his offer, but Schaunard challenges Barbemuche to a game of billiards, the loser of which shall pay the bill. Everyone moves off to the billiard room, leaving Musetta and Marcello alone. They play at the idea of falling in love, Musetta warning Marcello that she is not to be trusted in affairs of the heart. Schaunard wins at billiards and the bill is settled.
1 April, the courtyard of the apartment building where Musetta lives
Musetta’s rich lover has discovered she’s having an affair with Marcello, and is having her evicted from her flat. Her furniture and belongings are being piled up in the courtyard by the concièrge and several porters. Musetta and Marcello realize that today they’re supposed to be having a party and Schaunard has the brilliant idea of going ahead with it in the courtyard. Rodolfo, who has earned some money from his writing, bribes the concièrge to act as major-domo for the evening. Their gang of Bohemian friends arrives and the party begins. It becomes ever more boisterous provoking angry reactions from the residents. In the uproar Mimì decides to leave Rodolfo, tempted by the promises of Count Paolo, a rich admirer, and slips quietly away with him.
October, Marcello’s room
With no money left between them, Marcello and Schaunard decide to go out and try and sell some work. Unable to endure poverty any longer, Musetta decides to leave Marcello and writes him a farewell note which she gives to the concièrge. Mimì returns: she wants Rodolfo to take her back. Musetta attempts to persuade Mimì to leave, but is interrupted by Marcello’s unexpected return. Mimì quickly hides. Marcello has read Musetta’s letter and, convinced that Musetta no longer loves him, is incensed. He is on the point of beating her up when Mimì emerges from the shadows. Rodolfo refuses to listen to Mimì’s assertions of love: for him their love is dead and he tells her to go. She leaves, to be followed by Musetta. Alone, Marcello collapses in despair.
Christmas Eve, Rodolfo’s room
Marcello, Rodolfo and Schaunard are about to eat their meagre Christmas Eve dinner when Mimì arrives, frozen and exhausted. They light a fire using whatever they can find to hand. Mimì recounts what has happened to her: she became homeless after the Count discarded her, tried to get her old job back but failed, ran out of money and became ill with tuberculosis; discharged from the pauper’s hospital without making a recovery, she’s been living on the streets. Musetta arrives, once again well dressed and wealthy. She sends Schaunard with her jewellery to find medical help for Mimì, but it’s too late. Reconciled with Rodolfo, Mimì dies.
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