Giacomo Puccini – La Bohème
Recorded in England on May 1979.
About the Opera:
La bohème is an opera in four acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. The world première performance of La bohème was in Turin on February 1, 1896 at the Teatro Regio (now the Teatro Regio Torino) and conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. Since then La bohème has become part of the standard Italian opera repertory and is one of the most frequently performed operas internationally.
Puccini began composing snippets of La bohème in the autumn of 1892 but was slow in his progress to seriously tackle the project, partly because he had not yet definitely given up his idea of an opera based on Giovanni Verga’s La lupa and partly because he spent much of the next two years travelling all over Europe to supervise performances of Manon Lescaut. By the end of June 1893 Illica and Giacosa had already completed a libretto which was organized into four acts and five scenes: the Bohemians’ garret and the Café Momus (Act 1), the Barrière d’Enfer (Act 2), the courtyard of Musetta’s house (Act 3) and Mimì’s death in the garret (Act 4). Giacosa felt confident that the libretto was completed and announced in the columns of the Gazzetta musicale di Milano that the text was ready for setting to music. His statement was premature as Puccini and Ricordi required further revisions to the courtyard and Barrière scenes. Unhappy with this response, Giacosa eventually threatened to withdraw from the project in October 1893 but was persuaded by Ricordi to remain. In the winter of 1893–4, Puccini insisted on jettisoning the courtyard scene and with it Mimì’s desertion of Rodolfo for a rich ‘Viscontino’ only to return to the poet in the final act. Both Illica and Giacosa strongly objected to this decision, but Illica finally proposed a solution whereby the last act, instead of opening with Mimì already on her deathbed as originally planned, would begin with a scene for the four Bohemians similar to that of Act 1, while Mimì’s absence would be the subject of an aria by Rodolfo. The aria became a duet, but otherwise Illica’s scheme was adopted in all essentials. During 1894, Illica and Giacosa further revised the two self-descriptions of Rodolfo and Mimì’ in Act 1 and their duet “O soave fanciulla”. There was also a considerable amount of conflict between the librettists and composer over the Café Momus scene, which was an invention of Puccini’s and not based in Murger. At this point the scene was envisaged as a finale to Act 1 and Illica wanted to eliminate it. However, Puccini stoutly defended it and eventually, although it is unclear precisely when, the scene became Act II. Puccini also expressed his own doubts during this period about the Barriére d’Enfer, a scene that owes nothing to Murger and which the composer felt gave insufficient scope for musical development. His suggestion that they replace it with another episode from Murger’s novel was curtly refused by Illica. In the summer of 1894, having finally abandoned the La lupa project, Puccini began to seriously work on the composition of La bohème. During this time the librettists’ work consisted mostly of elimination, extending even to details on whose inclusion Puccini had originally insisted, such as a drinking song (a brindisi celebrating the virtues of water) and a diatribe against women, both allocated to Schaunard. After roughly six months of hard work, the score was completed on 10 December 1895.
Puccini initially wanted the opera’s première to take place at La Scala but the prospect was not possible since the current management of the house was publisher Edoardo Sonzogno, who made a point of excluding all Ricordi scores from the repertory. Puccini therefore decided to première the work at the Teatro Regio Torino, where Manon Lescaut had received its première three years earlier. The opera opened to much hype but the public and critical response was mixed, partly due to the comparisons with Manon Lescaut and the expectation that Puccini would continue in a similar vein. In general, reviews looked favourably upon Acts 1 and 4, but criticized Acts 2 and 3 for falling in the direction of triviality. However, the opera grew on the Italian public and productions soon rapidly spread across the nation. A performance at the Teatro Argentina, Rome, under Edoardo Mascheroni (23 February 1897) introduced Rosina Storchio as Musetta, a role in which she later excelled. A revival at the Politeama Garibaldi, Palermo (24 April 1897) under Leopoldo Mugnone included for the first time the Act 2 episode where Mimì shows off her bonnet. On this occasion Rodolfo and Mimì were played by Edoardo Garbin and Adelina Stehle (the original young lovers of Verdi’s Falstaff), who did much to make La bohème popular in southern Italy in the years that followed. Outside Italy most premières of La bohème were given in smaller theatres and in the vernacular of the country. In Paris it was first given in 1898 by the Opéra-Comique, as La vie de bohème, and achieved its 1000th performance there in 1951. After a performance at Covent Garden by the visiting Carl Rosa company in 1897 La bohème first established itself in the repertory of the Royal Italian Opera on 1 July 1899 with a cast that included Nellie Melba (Mimì), Zélie de Lussan (Musetta), Alessandro Bonci (Rodolfo), Mario Ancona (Marcello) and Marcel Journet (Colline). From then on its fortunes in Britain and America were largely associated with Melba, who was partnered, among others, by Fernando de Lucia, John McCormack, Giovanni Martinelli and, most memorably of all, Enrico Caruso. The opera premiered in the US in Los Angeles on October 14, 1897 at the New Los Angeles Theater. The initial performance was sparsely attended; less than half of the theater’s seating capacity was filled. At the time, Los Angeles had a population of around 100,000. In 1946, fifty years after the opera’s premiere, Toscanini conducted a performance of it on U.S. radio, and this performance was eventually released on records and on compact disc. It is the only recording of a Puccini opera by its original conductor (see Selected recordings below). La bohème currently appears as number 2 on Opera America’s list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America, second only to Madama Butterfly, also composed by Puccini. Today La bohème remains,with Tosca and Madama Butterfly, one of the central pillars of the Italian repertory.
01. Questo Mar Rosso (4:17)
02. Pensier profondo! (1:04)
03. Abbasso, abbasso l’autor! (3:51)
04. Si puo? … Chi e la? (5:06)
05. Io resto (1:06)
06. Chi e la? (1:10)
07. Si sente meglio? (2:29)
08. Che gelida manina (4:46)
09. Si. Mi chiamano Mimi (4:52)
10. Ehi! Rodolfo! (0:45)
11. O soave fanciulla (4:21)
12. Aranci, datteri! (2:47)
13. Chi guardi? Ecco i giocattoli di Parpignol (3:16)
14. Viva Parpignol – Una cuffietta a pizzi (2:10)
15. Beviam! (3:24)
16. Quando m’en vo (4:59)
17. Caro! – Fuori il danaro! (2:07)
01. Ohe, la, le guardie…Aprite! (3:39)
02. Sa dirmi, scusi (1:32)
03. Mimi! – Rodolfo m’ama e mi fugge (4:48)
04. Marcello, Finalmaente! (1:13)
05. Mimi e una civette (1:25)
06. Mimi e tanto malata! (3:18)
07. Donde lieta usci (3:18)
08. Addio, dolce svegliare (5:35)
09. In un coupe? (1:23)
10. O Mimi, tu piu non torni – Che ora sia (5:30)
11. Gavotta (1:46)
12. C’e Mimi (5:55)
13. Vecchia zimarra, senti (2:12)
14. Sono andati? (5:55)
15. Oh Dio! Mimi! (2:45)
16. Che ha detto il medico? (3:04)
Stereo, ADD, mp3, 320 kbps, 257.14 Mb, 1 hour 46 minutes. Covers, info & synopsis included.