Introducing… La bohème
Everything you need to know about our brand new production of Puccini’s La bohème.
In the video below opera expert Alexandra Coghlan explores Puccini’s La bohème. Not only one of opera’s greatest tragic love stories, the opera is also an homage to the creative and romantic life of one of the world’s great cities: Paris.
Along the way Alexandra talks to historian Prof. Joan DeJean to discuss what it is about Paris that has inspired so many artists; director Floris Visser reveals his vision for the opera; and actor Simon Callow tells us more about the bohemian spirit.
A brief introduction
Puccini’s La bohème is a story in which the lives of ordinary people, speaking in everyday language, are elevated by music to the level of the extraordinary, the tragic, the timeless.
When seamstress Mimi meets struggling writer Rodolfo they fall immediately and passionately in love. But while Paris is the magical city of love, it’s also a very real place of hardship, as the young Bohemians soon discover when poverty and sickness tear them cruelly apart.
Originally premiered in 1896, La bohème combines true musical intimacy and the complexity of human emotion in all its many shades of grey, with wonderfully vivid, bustling scenes of Parisian life. Comedy and tragedy collide, dissolving traditional genres and structures into a continuous, compelling flow of drama and action. Opera is often accused of melodrama, excess, and La bohème is the corrective – a piece whose skill is all in understatement, its tragedy lightly worn, its characters and situations speedily but tellingly sketched.
Why not to miss this production
Today La bohème has a fixed place in the top 10 most-performed operas worldwide, yet it has not been seen on the Glyndebourne stage since 2012. Floris Visser’s eagerly anticipated new production gives you the opportunity to discover the opera anew, and with its lush orchestral writing and big chorus moments, this is a piece that really hits home in the Glyndebourne auditorium.
A great moment to look out for
Rodolfo’s Act I aria ‘Che gelida manina’ is one of the most famous love-declarations of all opera – a classic, but unconventional in its three-part structure. While he and Mimi ‘search’ for her lost key, the music has wandered harmonically, but now as their hands touch for the first time it finds its home. The aria’s first section, almost recitative in its simplicity, sets the scene – moonlight, they are alone – as harp and flute add a shimmering glow to the string accompaniment. The second section becomes musically more ardent and daring, as Rodolfo explains the life and philosophy of the bohemians (‘Chi son? Sono un poeta’). The third section ‘Talor dal mio forziere’ is the real meat of the love-music as Rodolfo finally declares himself and we hear the opera’s most recognisable love-theme in the violins and voice rising to the famous top C.
Cast and creative team
The acclaimed Dutch director Floris Visser makes his Glyndebourne debut with this new production. Jordan de Souza, who conducted the Glyndebourne Opera Cup finals in 2020 makes a welcome return.
A young international cast will be led by prize-winning Chinese tenor Long Long, and Chilean soprano Yaritza Véliz. Daniel Scofield sings Marcello, and 2019 John Christie Award winner Vuvu Mpofu returns to Glyndebourne to play Musetta.
Below you can watch Vuvu’s performance of ‘Caro Nome’ from Rigoletto:
Illustration © Katie Ponder