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La Boheme, act I December 24, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Italian, La Boheme, Opera, Theater.

It was especially hard to choose between the two DVDs I own of Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece, both of Metropolitan Opera productions that I saw live with most of the same principals.

This production, recorded on January 18, 1982, won by a hair on the head of director and set designer Franco Zeffirelli. Yes, he can be pretentious and grandiose. But I will always remember the gasps and applause when the curtain opened on that garret, with the roofs of Paris stretching into the distance behind it, and the laughter when the Bohemians jumped off the balcony in Act IV.

For all that it has a tragic ending, this is, after all, a Christmas piece, and more appropriate for the season than Hansel and Gretel. Here, the first of the four acts of my favorite opera.

Act I

Paris, mid-nineteenth century. In their cheerless Latin Quarter garret, two near-destitute Bohemians, the artist Marcello (Richard Stilwell) and the poet Rodolfo (Jose Carreras) try to keep warm on Christmas Eve by feeding the stove with pages from Rodolfo’s drama.

They are soon joined by their roommates – Colline, a philosopher (James Morris), and Schaunard (Allan Monk), the latter bearing food, fuel and funds.

As they celebrate their unexpected fortune, the landlord Benoit (Italo Tajo) arrives to collect the rent.

Plying the older man with wine, the Bohemians urge him to tell of his flirtations, and then throw him out in mock indignation at his infidelity to his wife. Schaunard proposes that they celebrate the holiday at the Café Momus.

Rodolfo remains behind to try to finish an article, promising to join them later, but he doesn’t feel in the mood for writing.

There is another knock on the door; the visitor is a pretty neighbor, Mimì (Teresa Stratas), whose candle has gone out on the drafty stairway. No sooner does she enter than she feels faint; after reviving her with a sip of wine, Rodolfo helps her to the door, relighting her candle. Mimì realizes that she lost her key when she fainted; as the two search for it, both candles are blown out. In the moonlight, the poet takes the girl’s shivering hand, telling her of his dreams (“Che gelida manina”).

Mimì recounts her life alone in a garret, embroidering flowers and waiting for the spring (“Si, mi chiamano Mimì”).

Rodolfo’s friends are heard outside, urging him to come down. He calls back that he will be along shortly – and not alone. Voicing their new-found rapture (“O soave fanciulla”), Mimì and Rodolfo leave, arm-in-arm, for the café.

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1. Anonymous - October 15, 2007

Iove it. It is the most beautifull I have ever seen

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