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1 (Puccini: La bohème). Bar. A painter, who lives with three other bohemians in a garret in the Latin Quarter of Paris. He is working on a painting of the Red Sea. His relationship with Musetta, a grisette, has come to an end after much quarrelling and he knows she is seeing other men. After he and his friends have eaten and drunk their wine to celebrate Christmas Eve, they continue the evening at the popular Café Momus, together with Rodolfo's new-found love Mimì. There Marcello sees Musetta enter with her elderly rich escort. Pointedly trying to ignore each other, it is soon obvious that they are still in love. Musetta sends her escort on a wild goose chase and then joins the bohemians and leaves with them. In February she and Marcello are in a tavern, outside which now hangs his Red Sea painting. Mimì calls him from the inn—she tells him she can no longer stay with Rodolfo, whose jealousy is causing them much anguish. Rodolfo comes from the inn to look for Marcello and sees Mimì. Marcello returns inside and finds Musetta flirting with another man and this starts a furious quarrel. The tender farewells of the one couple merge with the raucous quarrel of the other pair. Back in the attic, Marcello is missing Musetta—once again they have parted and she has taken a wealthy patron. As the four friends cheer themselves up with some horse-play, Musetta arrives: Mimì is downstairs, too ill and weak to climb the stairs. Musetta gives Marcello her earrings to sell to raise money for food and medicine. When they all return, it is too late—Mimì is dead. Quartet (really a double-duet, Marcello and Musetta /Rodolfo and Mimì): Dunque è proprio finita? /Che facevi? (‘So it's really over?’/‘What were you doing?’). There have been many excellent singers of this Italian baritone role, among them Francesco Valentino, Giuseppe Taddei, John Brownlee (who made his Covent Garden début in this role in 1926 on the night of Dame Nellie Melba's farewell, taking over for the last two acts only), Robert Merrill, Rolando Panerai, Ettore Bastianini, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (in German), Tito Gobbi, Robert Merrill, Sherrill Milnes, Thomas Allen, and Anthony Michaels-Moore. Created (1896) by Tieste Wilmant (described by Puccini as ‘vile’ and ‘absolutely no good’).

2 (Leoncavallo: La bohème). Ten. A painter, the leading male role in this version. He is deserted by Musetta, but she later returns to him. Created (1897) by Giovanni Beduschi.

Subjects: Opera.

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