UNFORGETTABLE MUSIC. SPECTACULAR STAGING.
Puccini makes opera come to life. See the master weave an ageless tale of love and friendship against all odds.
Act I: Christmas Eve. Latin Quarter, Paris, c. 1830.
In their cold attic apartment, the poet Rodolfo and the painter Marcello struggle to keep warm, eventually burning part of Rodolfo’s manuscript to heat the room. Soon their friends Colline, a philosopher, and Schaunard, a musician, arrive with food, wine, and cigars purchased with the money from Schaunard’s new employment – playing the violin to an eccentric Englishman’s parrot. A knock interrupts their revelry, and their landlord Benoit enters to collect rent. The four friends entice him with wine and pretend to become offended when he boasts of an amorous conquest, kicking him out with feigned indignation. Afterward, they depart for a celebration at Café Momus while Rodolfo stays behind to write, promising to join them later. A second knock and a woman’s voice interrupt his solitude. Mimì, a neighbor, explains that her candle has gone out on the stairs. As she enters she is seized by a coughing fit and fainting spell. Rodolfo revives her with wine and relights her candle. As she begins to depart, she realizes she has dropped her key and both of their candles are blown out by a gust of air. The two search for the key in the darkened room. Clasping her hand, Rodolfo describes his life as a poet and his dreams for the future (“Che gelida manina,” What a cold little hand). Mimì, in turn, responds to tell him of her life as an embroiderer (“Sì. Mi chiamano Mimì,” Yes, they call me Mimì). They realize that they have fallen in passionately in love (“Oh soave fanciulla,” Oh lovely girl), and they depart for Café Momus together.
Act II: The square with Café Momus.
In celebration of Christmas, a large crowd has assembled in the square. Rodolfo introduces Mimì to his friends and buys her a bonnet from a vendor. Together the four characters enter the café and begin to dine. Musetta, Marcello’s former lover, enters on the arm of her current admirer, the wealthy and elderly Alcindoro. It is clear that she has tired of him, and upon seeing Marcello, tries to attract his attention by boasting of her popularity (“Quando me’n vo’,” When I go along) as Marcello struggles to hide his interest. To rid herself of Alcindoro, she complains about her tight shoes, dispatching the older man to buy her a new pair. After he departs, Musetta and Marcello fall into each other’s arms. The arrival of their supper bill causes alarm – Schaunard has lost his purse and the group cannot pay. Musetta charges the bill to Alcindoro. As a military band passes, the six comrades escape into the crowd, leaving the dumbfounded Alcindoro to pay when he returns.
Act III: A toll-gate on the Orléans road into Paris.
From the cold, snowy street, Musetta and large group are heard inside a tavern. Mimì, coughing violently, enters in search of Rodolfo but finds Marcello instead. She recounts Rodolfo’s terrible jealousy and the hard life they have together (“O buon Marcello, aiuto!” Oh, good Marcello, help me!). Rodolfo emerges from the tavern and Mimì hides. Rodolfo tells Marcello that he wants to leave Mimì, describing her as a fickle, heartless creature. He eventually confesses however, that his jealously in not real. Rather, he fears that Mimì is incurably ill and her condition will only worsen in the poverty they share. His false unkindness is meant to drive her into the arms of a wealthier man who can better care for her. Mimì’s coughing alerts Rodolfo to her presence and, at first, they decide to separate amicably. Then realizing that their love is too strong, they agree to remain together until spring. Meanwhile, Marcello has been drawn back into the tavern at the sound of Musetta’s flirting. They begin to argue – a direct counterpoint to the other couple’s reconciliation (“Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina!” Goodbye, sweet awakening in the morning!).
ACT IV: The attic apartment, some months later.
Rodolfo and Marcello lament their loneliness and reminisce about their former lovers. The mood improves when Colline and Schaunard enter with a meal, and the four stage a dance that turns into a mock duel. The revelry is shattered when Musetta arrives with the news that Mimì, having left her wealthy patron, is downstairs and near death. Rodolfo rushes to her, carries her up the stairs, and makes her comfortable on a bed. Marcello leaves with Musetta to sell her earrings to buy medicine while Colline withdraws to pawn his coat. Alone together, Mimì tells Rodolfo that her love for him is her whole life (“Sono andati?” Have they gone?). The former lovers recount their initial meeting and past happiness. Assuring Rodolfo she feels better, Mimì falls asleep. The other characters return with medicine, but it is too late. Mimì died quietly and without notice. Finally realizing she is dead, the grief-stricken Rodolfo throws himself on her lifeless body.
Synopsis by Christina Kucan, PR/Communications Specialist, and Hannah Guinn, Director of Fort Worth Opera Studio/Education