Opera Philadelphia

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The Story of La bohème as retold by Yuval Sharon

La bohème tells the story of three couples: the romantic poet Rodolfo and the serene, self-possessed flowergirl Mimì; the temperamental painter Marcello and the fiercely independent singer Musetta; the lovably pedantic musician Schaunard and the taciturn philosopher Colline.

DEATH ⁄ In their cramped, spare apartment, lovesickness blocks Rodolfo and Marcello from creating. Schaunard and Colline try making the best of their impoverishment by pretending their meager meal is a grand ball. Musetta bursts in with the gravely ill Mimì; Schaunard recognizes that she has little time left. Marcello and Musetta reconcile and search for a doctor and any last comfort they can offer Mimì; Colline offers to sell the beloved coat that Schaunard bought for him to pay for the doctor. Briefly alone, Mimì and Rodolfo recall the first time they met. The friends come back with medicine, money, and a muff for Mimì’s cold hands. They await the doctor’s arrival, but it’s too late: Mimì’s life slips through their fingers.

BARRIÈRE ⁄ Three months earlier. At a border crossing at dawn, Mimì desperately seeks out Marcello. He has been living with Musetta as boarders in a shabby tavern, where he paints and she offers singing lessons. Mimì confesses that Rodolfo has been erratic and cruel to her and wants to end their relationship. Rodolfo has slept at the tavern, and as he confides to Marcello, Mimì eavesdrops on the conversation. At first, Rodolfo lies about the reason for their break-up: he’s bored with her, and she’s a terrible flirt. But he lets down his guard and reveals the truth: he knows that Mimì is very sick and feels powerless to help her. With the secret of her sickness revealed, Mimì holds back her emotions and ends their relationship. But as the two of them recount all the many things they will miss — and with Marcello and Musetta’s latest turbulent break-up unfolding in the background — Rodolfo and Mimì decide to stay together only through the winter.

MOMUS ⁄ Two months earlier — Christmas Eve. The streets of Paris are ablaze with life and a carnivalesque anarchy. Amid shouts of street hawkers, Rodolfo buys Mimì a bonnet near the Café Momus before introducing her to his friends. Musetta enters ostentatiously on the arm of the wealthy Alcindoro. Trying to regain the painter’s attention, she sings a waltz about her irresistible beauty. Marcello successfully ignores her, but when Musetta pretends to suffer from a pinched foot, he falls into a passionate frenzy. As the couple reunites, a rousing march fills the streets.

LOVE ⁄ Earlier that night. Marcello and Rodolfo try to keep warm by burning pages from Rodolfo’s drama. Colline enters in time to catch the last of the dying flames. Schaunard, newly employed as a music tutor, surprises them all with a bounty of food, wine, cigars, and wood for the stove. He urges the friends to save the provisions — in case of a gloomy future — and eat a celebratory meal at Café Momus instead. Rodolfo stays behind to write, but he’s not inspired — until a knock at the door signals the arrival of Mimì, his new neighbor, whose candle has gone out on the drafty stairs. Out of breath, she faints to the floor, but a cool splash of water revives her. Rodolfo ignites her candle, but when the two search for Mimì’s dropped key, both candles are blown out. In the moonlight, the poet takes the girl’s cold hand and offers to warm it for her. He introduces himself as a poet who lives with hope in his heart. She tells him about her quiet life and the poems she reads in the flowers. Overwhelmed with love, they go out into the night, their cries of love echoing into eternity.

MapThe Academy of Music

Dates are Apr - May 2023.

Fri, Apr 28 8:00 p.m.
Sun, Apr 30 2:00 p.m.
Fri, May 5 8:00 p.m.
Sun, May 7 2:00 p.m.

Approximately 100 minutes with no intermission

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