A classic among the classics, this is one of the most often staged operas in the world. From its very first performance, it spurred powerful emotions and moved viewers to tears. Seen for the first time, it tells the story of innocent love and sadness following the loss of a loved one and the passing of youth. With each revisit, it reveals deep emotional overtones hidden in symbolic stage gestures. Even Puccini himself was so deeply moved when playing the poignant chords accompanying the heroine’s death as if he had just lost his own beloved creature. This is the timeless force of “La Bohème”—irrespective of the age and experience of the listeners, they will definitely feel a bond with the protagonists. Youth, courage, passion and great love all come together here, idealized through the inimitable music composed by Puccini.
The plot of “La Bohème” is structured around four images—four stand-alone scenes with a distinct focal point. The touching Mimì and the romantic Rodolfo plus the unpredictable Musetta and the hot-headed Marcello are two couples whose fate represents the two narrative axes of the composition. The main storyline—the love between the poor seamstress Mimì, who suffers from tuberculosis, and the poet Rodolfo—takes place in Paris in the first half of the 19th century. The opera’s libretto, based on Henri Murger’s “Scènes de la vie de bohème,” accurately conveys the political background of post-revolutionary France and the discontent felt by the poorest social circles, with young artists living on the brink of poverty.
In the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic production, the plot of “La Bohème” is shifted to the 1930s. This was a time when modern art flourished, and Paris became a mecca for painters looking to satisfy their artistic cravings and create art without any academic restraints. The stage design was directly inspired by the famous artists’ residence of La Ruche—a building in the Montparnasse district, home to the greatest 20th-century painters from the Parisian School. In its visual layer, the production refers to 1930s French film classics, feeding off of the mysterious atmosphere created on the silver screen by Marcel Carné and René Clair. In spite of shifting the storyline, the production remains faithful to the libretto in conveying the timeless psychological reactions to love and death.
World premiere: 1 II 1896, Teatro Regio, Torino
Premiere: 24 III 2017