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.
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)
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.
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.
Major support for WNO is provided by Jacqueline Badger Mars.
David and Alice Rubenstein are the Presenting Underwriters of WNO.
General Dynamics is the proud sponsor of WNO's 2014-2015 Season.
WNO acknowledges the longstanding generosity of
Life Chairman Mrs. Eugene B. Casey.
Generous support for WNO Italian opera is provided by Daniel and Gayle D'Aniello.
La bohème is a production of the Clarice Smith Opera Series.
The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program is made possible through the generous support of
The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.
Additional funding for the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program
is provided by Judy and Billy Cox.
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