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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 its premiere at the Teatro la Fenicemarker, Venicemarker on May 6, 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 Mimi Pinson, but it fared no better. Puccini's version has become a standard in the operatic repertoire, whereas Leoncavallo's opera is rarely performed. Leoncavallo's version did not receive its UK premiere until May 1970.

Allan Atlas has analysed in detail the different treatments of the death of the Mimi 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.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, May 6 1897
(Conductor: Alessandro Pomè)
Schaunard, a musician baritone Jacques [Gianni] Isnardon
Marcello, a painter tenor Giovanni Beduschi
Rodolfo, a poet baritone

Rodolfo Angelini-Fornari
Mimi soprano Rosina Storchio
Musetta mezzo-soprano Elisa "Lison" Frandin
Gaudenzio tenor Enrico Giordani
Loafer tenor
Colline, a philosopher baritone 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


Place: Parismarker.
Time: one year from Christmas, 1837 to Christmas, 1838.

Act 1

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 Musetta gaily sings. (Canzonette: "Mimi 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

The courtyard of Musetta's house

Musetta's lover has left her, refusing any longer to pay her debts. In consequence, her furniture has been confiscated and it 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

Marcello's garret room

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

Act 4

Rodolfo's garret room

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

Noted Arias

  • "Musetta!...Testa adorata" (Marcello)
  • "Musetta svaria sulla bocca viva" (Mimì)
  • "Da quel suon soavemente" (Musetta)


  1. Holden, Amanda, ed., The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Puttnam, Inc, 2001, p. 489


  • This synopsis is adapted from Leo Melitz, The Opera Goer's Complete Guide, 1921 version.

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