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1 (Puccini: La bohème). Ten. A poet who lives in poverty with his three bohemian friends, Marcello, Colline, and Schaunard, in a garret in the Latin Quarter of Paris. He decides to remain behind when his colleagues leave to spend Christmas Eve at the local Café Momus. As he writes his poetry, there is a knock at the door. Mimì, pale and fragile, is on her way to her own room and her candle has blown out—please will he relight it for her? Invited in, she has a fit of coughing and collapses in a chair, her candle and door‐key falling to the floor. Rodolfo revives her with some wine and they both search for the key on the floor. He finds it and surreptitiously slips it in his pocket. Their hands touch—hers are very cold—and their eyes meet. They tell each other who they are and what they do and then declare their love. They depart for the Café Momus where they join the others and Rodolfo buys Mimì a pink bonnet. Marcello's old love Musetta soon joins them. However, Rodolfo's jealousy and worry about Mimì's health cause many problems, and they decide they will be better apart. Months pass and Rodolfo misses his love. Then there is a knock at the door and Musetta arrives—she has brought the very sick Mimì to be with Rodolfo. The young couple reminisce about their past times together and declare their continued love. The others tactfully leave them together, but when they all return they realise, before Rodolfo does, that Mimì has died. Seeing their faces, it gradually sinks in and, sobbing, he throws himself on Mimì's lifeless body. Aria: Che gelida manina! (‘What an icy little hand!’—the famous ‘Your tiny hand is frozen’); duets (with Mimì): O soave fanciulla (‘Oh! lovely girl … in the moonlight!’); Sono andati? … Ah Mimì, mia bella Mimì (‘Have they gone? … Ah Mimì, my beautiful Mimì’). Created (1896) by Evan Gorga. He was ill for most of the rehearsal period and was, in fact, not good enough for the role, although chosen by Puccini. The music had to be transposed down for him and his career was short—he later did well as an antique dealer. Unusual is the Italianate tenor who does not want to sing this role. Among those who have shone in it are Alessandro Bonci, Fernando De Lucia, Aureliano Pertile, Dino Borgioli, Enrico Caruso (who sprang to international fame after singing the role opposite Nellie Melba at Monte Carlo in 1902), Giovanni Martinelli, Beniamino Gigli, Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker (brothers‐in‐law), Joseph Hislop, Ferruccio Tagliavini (who made his début in this role in Florence in 1939), Fritz Wunderlich (in German), Jussi Björling, Giuseppe Di Stefano (who recorded it opposite Maria Callas), Carlo Bergonzi, Nicolai Gedda, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Jerry Hadley, and Roberto Alagna—to mention only the most famous.

2 (Leoncavallo: La bohème). Bar. A poet, in love with the seamstress Mimì. She leaves him to marry a wealthy count, but returns a year later, very ill, and dies in his arms. Created (1897) by Rodolfo Angelini‐Fornari.


Subjects: Opera.

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