La Bohème

La Bohème is an opera in four acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. The world premiere performance of La bohème was in Turin on February 1, 1896 at the Teatro Regio and conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. Since then, La bohème has become part of the standard Italian opera repertory and is one of the most frequently performed operas internationally. According to Opera America, it is the second most frequently performed opera in the United States, just behind another Puccini opera, Madama Butterfly.

Baz Luhrmann produced the opera for Opera Australia in 1990 with modernized supertitle translations. This version was set in 1957, rather than the original period of 1830.

The reason for updating La bohème to this period, according to Baz Luhrmann, was that “… [they] discovered that 1957 was a very, very accurate match for the social and economic realities of Paris in the 1840s.” In 2002, Luhrmann restaged his version on Broadway and won a Tony Award.

It essentially focuses on the love between the seamstress called Mimì and the poet Rodolfo. They almost immediately fall in love with each other, but Rodolfo later wants to leave Mimì because of her flirtatious behavior. However, Mimì also happens to be mortally ill, and Rodolfo also feels guilt, since their life together likely had worsened her health even further. They reunite for a brief moment at the end before Mimì dies.

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