Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Essential Opera - Reading Together - Part 17

Puccini's opera, La Boheme is among his most famous operas.

The setting of this opera is in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1830s.

Four young bohemians, Marcello, Schaunard, Colline, and Rodolfo, share a garret apartment as they seek to earn a living with their art. While Marcello, Schaunard, and Colline go out one evening to celebrate, Rodolfo meets Mimi (who lives next door) and they fall in love.

Mimi and Rodolfo meet up with Rodolfo's friends at the Cafe Momus. There they come across Musetta, who although she is with a rich admirer (Alcindoro), is actually in love with Marcello. Musetta sends Alcindoro on an errand to get rid of him. After having eaten at the cafe, the friends realize they have no money, so Musetta charges the entire bill to Alcindoro. The four friends, Mimi, and Musetta leave, and Alcindoro returns to find he's been left with the bill.

A while later, "Mimi appears, coughing violently. She tries to find Marcello, currently living in a little tavern where he paints signs for the innkeeper. She tells him of her hard life with Rodolfo, who abandoned her the night before, and of Rodolfo's terrible jealousy. Marcello tells her that Rodolfo is asleep inside, and expresses concern about Mimì's cough. Rodolfo wakes up and comes out looking for Marcello. Mimi hides and overhears Rodolfo first telling Marcello that he left Mimì because of her coquettishness, but finally confessing that his jealousy is a sham: he fears she is slowly being consumed by a deadly illness. Rodolfo, in his poverty, can do little to help Mimì and hopes that his pretended unkindness will inspire her to seek another, wealthier suitor. Out of kindness towards Mimì, Marcello tries to silence him, but she has already heard all. Her weeping and coughing reveal her presence, and Rodolfo hurries to her. Musetta's laughter is heard and Marcello goes to find out what has happened. Mimì tells Rodolfo that she is leaving him, and asks that they separate amicably; but their love for one another is too strong for the pair to part. As a compromise, they agree to remain together until the spring, when the world is coming to life again and no one feels truly alone. Meanwhile, Marcello has found Musetta, and the couple quarrel fiercely about Musetta's flirtatiousness: an antithetical counterpoint to the other pair's reconciliation."

Some months later, both Marcello and Rodolfo are working and talking about both Mimi and Musetta who have left them for wealthy lovers. Schaunard and Colline arrive and the four have a very frugal dinner together. Musetta suddenly appears to tell them that she has found Mimi in the street, severely weakened by her illness. They assist Mimi onto a bed, and all but Rodolfo leave to scrounge up some money for medicine. As the friends return, Mimi tells Rodolfo she feels better and falls asleep. The opera ends with Rodolfo realizing she is dead.

Leave your comments and impressions below. And, don't forget to read the eighteenth installment for next week.

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