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Opera Cheat Sheet

Opera Cheat Sheet: Puccini’s La bohème

An introduction to Puccini’s romantic masterpiece, Saturday’s noon opera broadcast.


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Houston Public Media's St.John Flynn and Eric Skelly of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra give a quick overview of Giacomo Puccini's powerful and tragic love story set in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Few people realize that there are actually two operas, written at the same time and both based on the book Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger, titled La bohème. Puccini's version debuted in Turin in February of 1896. The version by Ruggero Leoncavallo (known for Pagliacci) had its première at La Fenice in Venice in May of the following year.

Such was the success of the Puccini bohème that Leoncavallo's opera didn't stand a chance and is never heard today!

Tune in to Houston Public Media's Classical 91.7 Saturday, October 17th, at noon for the San Francisco Opera broadcast of La bohème featuring Alexia Voulgaridou singing the role of Mimi and Michael Fabiano singing Rodolfo.

[The musical excerpts in this OCS are taken from the 2008 Deutsche Grammophon release of La bohème featuring Bertrand de Billy conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, with Anna Netrebko as Mimì; Rolando Villazón as Rodolfo; and Nicole Cabell as Musetta (DG B0011219-02)]

Mimi lies dead on a bed while Rodolfo holds his head in his hands and cries
Image by Bengt Nyman. Creative Commons license.
Final scene from the April 2014 Metropolitan Opera production of Puccini’s La boheme