Washington National Opera: La bohème

Saturday, November 01, 2014 - Saturday, November 15, 2014

Puccini's timeless tale of young bohemians in Paris struggling to fulfill their dreams and find love returns in a brand-new production filled with moonlit duets, snowy streets, rowdy celebrations, and heartrending tears.


$25.00 - $310.00

Run Time:

Approx. 2-1/4 hours

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La bohème (1896)                             
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, after Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger
New WNO production
Puccini's "radiant, supremely expressive musical portraiture [has] helped make La bohème one of the world's most popular operas."--NPR
Deep in the heart of Paris's Latin Quarter--where music and dancing swirl nightly at the Café Momus--Mimì, a lovely seamstress of delicate health, meets handsome poet Rodolfo. Eccentric singer Musetta flirts and feuds with painter Marcello. And Colline, a philosopher, and Schaunard, a musician, do their best to distract the landlord from the rent. Through jealous breakups and rekindled romances, rowdy celebrations and tender tears, these six friends fight to keep their passions burning bright, hoping spring cures a tragic illness looming in their midst.   
Puccini's timeless tale of young bohemians struggling to fulfill their dreams, find love, and stay warm through a harsh Parisian winter returns to the Opera House in a brand-new production. An exciting cast of attractive artists--many of them making their WNO debuts--brings a fresh perspective to all of the opera's expressive arias, moonlit duets, and radiant ensemble passages in performances conducted by WNO Music Director Philippe Auguin.
With gorgeous sets and costumes by Lee Savage and Jennifer Moeller, two young American designers also new to WNO's ranks, the City of Light's snowy streets, drafty tenements, and nightclub diversions come to life in a production certain to linger in the memory long after its final heartrending scene. 
Rodolfo: Saimir Pirgu (Nov. 1, 4, 7, 9m, 12, 15m) / Alexey Dolgov (Nov. 2m, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15e)
Mimì: Corinne Winters* (Nov. 1, 4, 7, 9m, 12, 15m) / Tatiana Monogarova* (Nov. 2m, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15e)
Marcello: John Chest* (Nov. 1, 4, 7, 9m, 12, 15m) / Trevor Scheunemann^ (Nov. 2m, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15e)
Musetta: Alyson Cambridge (Nov. 1, 4, 9m, 12, 15m) / Leah Partridge* (Nov. 2m, 5, 7, 8, 10, 13, 15e)
Colline: Joshua Bloom* (Nov. 1, 4, 7, 9m, 12, 15m) / Musa Ngqungwana* (Nov. 2m, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15e)
Schaunard: Steven LaBrie* (Nov. 1, 4, 7, 9m, 12, 15m) / Christian Bowers** (Nov. 2m, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15e)
Benoit/Alcindoro: Donato DiStefano

Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Performance: Fri., Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Cast to be announced.

Conductor: Philippe Auguin
New Production by Jo Davies*
Original Stage Direction: Peter Kazaras*
Set Design: Lee Savage*
Costume Design: Jennifer Moeller*
Lighting Design: Bruno Poet*
Choreography: Ben Wright*
* WNO debut
** Current Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist
^ Former Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

In Italian with projected English titles. Titles may not be visible from the rear of the orchestra.

Performance Timing: Acts I & II - 55 min.; Intermission - 20 min.; Acts III & IV: 54 min. 

Musicologist Saul
Lilienstein leads the Thursday, November 13 Opera Insight, starting 1 hour and 15 minutes before the performance and lasting 35–40 minutes. All other Opera Insights start 1 hour before the performance and last 20–25 minutes. Informative and entertaining, Opera Insights take you inside the composer's mind, behind the scenes of planning a production, and into the history and social context of each opera.
These lectures are free, but patrons must present a ticket from any performance of La bohème.

Following these performances:

Sunday matinees, November 2 & 9
Monday evening, November 10
Join WNO artists for a unique opportunity to ask questions about the production.
All discussions begin immediately after the performance and are free with your ticket.

La Boheme synopsis

Act I

 It is Christmas Eve. Rodolfo, a writer, burns his manuscript in an attempt to warm the garret he shares with Marcello, a painter. The philosopher Colline enters, closely followed the musician Schaunard, who has brought food, wine, and cigars. He urges his friends to accompany him to the Latin Quarter Christmas Eve festivities. Benoit, the landlord, attempts to collect the rent; the friends ply him with wine to encourage him to spill his secrets, then throw him out with feigned indignation. Marcello, Schaunard, and Colline depart; Rodolfo says he will join them after finishing an article. A young woman, Mimì, knocks at the door; her candle has gone out. After a series of accidents and small deceptions, the two find themselves looking for her key in the garret, but instead they find each others' hands. As Rodolfo's friends call from the courtyard, he replies that he will meet them later.

 Act II

 The Latin Quarter bustles with vendors, urchins, and celebratory crowds.  Rodolfo buys a cap for Mimì and introduces her to his friends. Musetta, Marcello's former lover, enters on the arm of the wealthy Alcindoro. Marcello seethes and tries to ignore her as she baits him. Finally, complaining of a pain in her foot, Musetta sends Alcindoro to buy her a new pair of shoes. She and Marcello immediately embrace. When the friends are unable to pay their bill, Musetta tells the waiter that Alcindoro will pay when he returns. The friends join a military band parade and leave.

 Intermission (20 minutes)

 Act III

 A few months later. Peddlers pass through the gates at the Barrière d'Enfer. Mimì arrives, looking for Marcello, who is living with Musetta in a tavern. Coughing violently, Mimì tells Marcello that Rodolfo has abandoned her. Marcello replies that he is sleeping inside, and urges her to leave before she is discovered. Rodolfo comes out and tells Marcello that he will leave Mimì. As she eavesdrops, Rodolfo complains about her flirtatious behavior, but finally admits the real problem: he is deeply in love with her, but he fears that his substandard living conditions are hastening her demise. Mimì has a coughing fit and Rodolfo and Marcello realize she has heard everything. Marcello goes back to the tavern to join Musetta. Mimì and Rodolfo discuss an amicable separation but, unable to bear the thought of being alone in winter, they agree to stay together until the spring.   

 Short Pause

 Act IV


 Back in the garret, some months later, Rodolfo tells Marcello that Musetta has taken a wealthy lover, and Marcello fires back that Mimì, too, has improved her position. The men attempt to continue their work, but each is lost in thoughts of love. Schaunard and Colline enter. They lunch on bread and water, pretending to enjoy a lavish feast, then clear the room for dancing. Musetta interrupts them; she has brought Mimì, who is deathly ill, to the garret. The friends agree to sell some of their meager possessions to buy medicine, leaving Mimì and Rodolfo alone to remember the happiness they once shared. Mimì falls asleep shortly after everyone returns, assuring Rodolfo that she feels better. He is the last to realize that she has died.

Watch and Listen

WNO Commentary: La bohème 1 of 9: Introduction: Who are the Bohemians? (audio only)

WNO Commentary: La bohème 2 of 9: Act One: Marcello, Rodolfo, Colline, & Schaunard (audio only)

WNO Commentary: La bohème 3 of 9: Act One: Rodolfo and Mimì (audio only)

WNO Commentary: La bohème 4 of 9: Act Two: At the Café Momus (audio only)

WNO Commentary: La bohème 5 of 9: Act Two: Musetta (audio only)

WNO Commentary: La bohème 6 of 9: Act Three: Scene at the Barrière d’Enfer (audio only)

WNO Commentary: La bohème 7 of 9: Act Three: Farewells and Quartet (audio only)

WNO Commentary: La bohème 8 of 9: Act Four: Marcello, Rodolfo, Colline, & Schaunard (audio only)

WNO Commentary: La bohème 9 of 9: Act Four: The dying girl returns (audio only)

Francesca Zambello discusses La bohème

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All events and artists subject to change without prior notice.