Giacomo Puccini, La Boheme

Adam Sweeting

By Adam Sweeting

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

La Boheme

Giacomo Puccini
One of the most popular of all Italian operas, sung by a great.

Puccini had to fend off fellow-composer Ruggero Leoncavallo, who also wanted to make an opera out of Henry Murger's 1851 novel Scènes de la Vie de Bohème, but Puccini completed his score first and it became (and remains) one of the most popular of all Italian operas. One of its finest moments, "Che gelida manina!" (“your tiny hand is frozen”) occurs towards the end of the first act, when the poet Rodolfo, one of a group of arty but impoverished bohemians living in a Parisian garret, is writing alone in his room. He answers a knock on the door, and finds it's his neighbour Mimi, a consumptive seamstress. In one of La Bohème's many exquisite melodies, Rodolfo regales Mimi with his poetic autobiography, which naturally forms the prelude to an intense but doomed love affair. In this performance, Pavarotti is singing to the soprano Mirella Freni, with whom he grew up in their hometown of Modena.