Puccini’s unforgettable tale of love, youth, and tragic loss returns in Franco Zeffirelli’s classic production, perhaps his most beloved staging of all. Barbara Frittoli, Maria Agresta, Ramón Vargas, and Bryan Hymel are among the artists appearing as the young Parisian lovers in the bohemian setting that brings the Latin Quarter to life on the stage of the Met. Paolo Carignani and Dan Ettinger conduct.
World premiere: Teatro Regio, Turin, 1896. Met company premiere: Los Angeles (on tour), November 9, 1900. La Bohème, the passionate, timeless, and indelible story of love among young artists in Paris, can stake its claim as the world’s most popular opera. It has a marvelous ability to make a powerful first impression and to reveal unsuspected treasures after dozens of hearings. At first glance, La Bohème is the definitive depiction of the joys and sorrows of love and loss; on closer inspection, it reveals the deep emotional significance hidden in the trivial things—a bonnet, an old overcoat, a chance meeting with a neighbor—that make up our everyday lives.
Lyrical and touchingly beautiful, the score of La Bohème exerts an immediate emotional pull. Many of its most memorable melodies are built incrementally, with small intervals between the notes that carry the listener with them on their lyrical path. This is a distinct contrast to the grand leaps and dives that earlier operas often depended on for emotional effect. La Bohème’s melodic structure perfectly captures the “small people” (as Puccini called them) of the drama and the details of everyday life.
The libretto sets the action in Paris, circa 1830. This is not a random setting, but rather reflects the issues and concerns of a particular time when, following the upheavals of revolution and war, French artists had lost their traditional support base of aristocracy and church. The story centers on self-conscious youth at odds with mainstream society—a Bohemian ambience that is clearly recognizable in any modern urban center. La Bohème captures this ethos in its earliest days.