La bohème (Leoncavallo)

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La bohème
Opera by Ruggero Leoncavallo
La bohème by Leoncavallo - poster for the 1897 premiere.jpg
Poster for the premiere
Based onLa Vie de Bohème
by Henri Murger
6 May 1897 (1897-05-06)

La bohème is an Italian opera in four acts, with music and libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. The opera received a successful premiere at the Teatro la Fenice, Venice on 6 May 1897.

Leoncavallo wrote his opera La bohème contemporaneously with Giacomo Puccini's own treatment of the same story. Leoncavallo later revised the work, titling it Mimì Pinson, but despite initial respect, it did not survive. Puccini's version has become a standard in the operatic repertoire, whereas Leoncavallo's opera is rarely performed.[1] Leoncavallo's version did not receive its UK premiere until May 1970.[2]

Allan Atlas has analysed in detail the different treatments of the death of the Mimì 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.[3]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 6 May 1897
(Conductor: Alessandro Pomè)
Schaunard, a musician baritone[4] Jacques [Gianni] Isnardon
Marcello, a painter tenor[4] Giovanni Beduschi
Rodolfo, a poet baritone[4] Rodolfo Angelini-Fornari
Mimì soprano Rosina Storchio
Musette mezzo-soprano Elisa "Lison" Frandin
Gaudenzio tenor Enrico Giordani
Loafer tenor
Colline, a philosopher bass 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


A scene from La bohème at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris on 10 October 1899
Place: Paris.
Time: one year from Christmas, 1837 to Christmas, 1838.

Act 1[edit]

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 Musette gaily sings. (Canzonette: "Mimì 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[edit]

The courtyard of Musette's house

Musette's lover has left her, refusing any longer to pay her debts. In consequence, her furniture has been confiscated and 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[edit]

Marcello's garret room

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

Act 4[edit]

Rodolfo's garret room

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

Noted arias[edit]

  • "Musette!...Testa adorata" (Marcello)
  • "Io non ho che una povera stanzetta" (Marcello)
  • "Musette svaria sulla bocca viva" (Mimì)
  • "Da quel suon soavemente" (Musette)
  • "Scuoti, o vento fra i sibili" (Rodolfo)


Year Cast
(Schaunard, Marcello, Rodolfo, Mimi, Musette)
Conductor, Chorus and Orchestra Label
1958 Walter Monachesi, Doro Antonioli, Ettore Bastianini, Mafalda Masini, Rosetta Noli Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, Teatro di San Carlo Chorus and Orchestra (Naples) CD: Myto Cat: 169
1964 Orazio Gualtiero, Antonio Annaloro, Guido Mazzini, Mazza Medici, Nedda Casei Alberto Zedda, Orchestra Filarmonica de Sanremo, Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna LP: Cetra Cat: 1269
1975 Jacques Trigeau, Alain Vanzo, Robert Currier-Christesen, Edith Tremblay, Anita Terzian Nino Bonavolantà, Orchestre Lyrique de l'O.R.T.F., Chorale Lyrique de l'O.R.T.F. CD: DPV Cat: 30.9010
1981 Alan Titus, Franco Bonisolli, Bernd Weikl, Lucia Popp, Alexandrina Milcheva Heinz Wallberg, Bavarian Radio Symphony Chorus, Munich Symphony Orchestra CD: Orfeo Cat: 23822
1990 Bruno Praticò, Mario Malagnini, Jonathan Summers, Lucia Mazzaria, Martha Senn Jan Latham-Koenig, Teatro La Fenice Chorus and Orchestra (Venice) CD: Nuova Era Cat: 223304
2002 Urban Malmberg, Mikail Davidoff, Vittorio Vitelli, Juanita Lascarro, Katia Lytting Marco Guidarini, Klangbogen Wien DVD Premiere Opera Ltd Cat: 6601



  1. ^ Klein, John W. (May 1970). "The Other 'Bohème'". The Musical Times. Musical Times Publications Ltd. 111 (1527): 497–499. doi:10.2307/956015. JSTOR 956015.
  2. ^ Dean, Winton (July 1970). "Festivals: 'La Bohème'". The Musical Times. 111 (1529): 733. ISSN 0027-4666. JSTOR 956571.
  3. ^ Atlas, Allan W. (Winter 1996). "Mimi's Death: Mourning in Puccini and Leoncavallo". The Journal of Musicology. 14 (1): 52–79. doi:10.1525/jm.1996.14.1.03a00030. ISSN 0277-9269. JSTOR 763957.
  4. ^ a b c Holden, p. 489


  • Holden, Amanda, ed., The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Puttnam, Inc, 2001
  • Melitz, Leo, The Opera Goer's Complete Guide, 1921 version as source for the synopsis
  • Operadis Opera Discography, as of 4/30/2014