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Mimì Celine Byrne soprano
Musetta Anna Devin soprano
Rodolfo Merūnas Vitulskis tenor
Marcello David Bizic baritone
Schaunard Ben McAteer baritone
Colline John Molloy bass
Benoît, Alcindoro Eddie Wade baritone
Parpignol Fearghal Curtis tenor
Doganiere David Howes bass-baritone
Sergente Rory Dunne bass-baritone
Puccini's perennial favourite in a new concert performance from Irish National Opera—a stellar young cast brings to life the loves and stark realities of bohemian Paris.
We are brought to the Café Momus, which is situated in a busy street. There is a great crowd of people, buying and selling. The bohemians are enjoying the good things provided by the café. Musetta, an old flame of Marcello’s, arrives with her latest conquest, Alcindoro, a rich, elderly sugar-daddy. After several vain attempts to attract Marcello’s attention, she pretends to suffer from the effects of a tight shoe, and while her new admirer is away at the shoe-makers to have the shoe stretched, Musetta and Marcello become reconciled. When the time comes to pay the bill they realise that Schaunard’s money is all gone. Musetta solves the problem by leaving her rich admirer to settle it. They all traipse off following a band which is passing down the street. After they’re gone, the old man arrives back with Musetta’s shoe. The waiter hands him the bill. Alcindoro is staggered by the amount.
We are at a toll gate on the Orléans road into Paris. It is early morning and the pedlars are arriving, each declaring to the guards the contents of their baskets. The snow is falling, covering the steps of the little tavern where Marcello has been hired to paint signs for the innkeeper. Rodolfo is staying at the inn, but the course of his love for Mimì has not run smoothly, and they broke up the previous night. Mimì comes to see him, and, encountering Marcello, tells him of her troubles. As they talk Rodolfo is heard approaching from the inn. Mimì conceals herself behind a tree. Rodolfo tells Marcello he wants a separation from Mimì. But he gets no sympathy from his friend, who instead upbraids him for stubbornness and bad temper. Rodolfo then seeks to explain his conduct by revealing the fact that Mimì is too delicate, and, in fact, is dying from consumption. The unfortunate Mimì overhears all this and her coughing betrays her presence. Rodolfo is stricken with remorse and pity, and although the lovers patch things up, they agree they will part in the spring. Musetta, in the meantime, has another violent quarrel with Marcello and leaves him in anger.
We are back in the garret in the Latin quarter. Again we see Marcello seeming to paint and Rodolfo seeming to write poetry. They are both out of sorts, so when Schaunard and Colline arrive with the dinner, they are glad of an excuse to abandon all pretence of work. The four engage in a burlesque of a great banquet, and when their fun is at its climax, Musetta and Mimì appear in the doorway. Mimi, who had taken a new lover, some well-to-do individual, has left him to return to spend her last moments with Rodolfo. Her disease has left her with scarcely strength enough to climb the stairs. They assist her to bed, and when Rodolfo and Mimì are left alone they recall their past happiness. Gradually Mimì sinks and dies in the arms of her lover.
(adapted from Irish composer Harold R White’s 'Stories of the Operas', printed for the Carl Rosa Opera Company, the company which gave the Irish premiere of La bohème in 1897)
Harold R White © 1897