Closing OPERA SA's Fourth Season

May 17 & 19, 2018

Puccini's La Bohème

LA BOHÈME – Sung in Italian with English supertitles

When a shy stranger knocks on the door of a penniless poet, looking for someone to light her candle, they both find that something more magical is kindled.

Thus begins one of the most beloved and tragic operas ever written, which continues to move audiences to tears with its tale of the doomed love between the poet Rodolfo and the seamstress Mimi. The tale is set against the backdrop of life in the Latin Quarter of Paris, with the lively and engaging characters of Musetta, Marcello and all the bohemians brought to life by the beautiful music of Puccini.  The joy of living is counterbalanced with the struggles to keep body and soul together, and passion fights with the need to be understood. Dreams clash with reality, and in the end, life and death share the stage in a poignant portrayal of too little too late.

With unforgettable characters and some of the most cherished music in the repertoire, Puccini's La Bohème holds a unique place in the hearts of opera lovers. For those new to opera, it is the ideal "first piece," and for devoted opera fans, there is still much to discover from our favorite Bohemians of the opera stage.



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Synopsis courtesy Met Opera:

World premiere: Teatro Regio, Turin, 1896.


Paris, the 1830s. In their Latin Quarter garret, the near-destitute artist Marcello and poet Rodolfo try to keep warm on Christmas Eve by feeding the stove with pages from Rodolfo’s latest drama. They are soon joined by their roommates—Colline, a philosopher, and Schaunard, a musician, who brings food, fuel, and funds he has collected from an eccentric student. While they celebrate their unexpected fortune, the landlord, Benoit, comes to collect the rent. After making the older man drunk, they urge him to tell of his flirtations. When he does, they throw him out in mock indignation at his infidelity to his wife. As his friends depart to celebrate at the Café Momus, Rodolfo remains behind to finish an article but promises to join them later. There is another knock at the door—the visitor is Mimì, a pretty neighbor, whose candle has gone out on the stairway. As she enters the room she suddenly feels faint. Rodolfo gives her a sip of wine, then helps her to the door and relights her candle. Mimì realizes she lost her key when she fainted, and as the two search for it, both candles are blown out. Rodolfo finds the key and slips it into his pocket. In the moonlight, he takes Mimì’s hand and tells her about his dreams. She recounts her life alone in a lofty garret, embroidering flowers and waiting for the spring. Rodolfo’s friends are heard outside, calling him to join them. He responds that he is not alone and will be along shortly. Happy to have found each other, Mimì and Rodolfo leave, arm in arm, for the café.



Amid the shouts of street hawkers near the Café Momus, Rodolfo buys Mimì a bonnet and introduces her to his friends. They all sit down and order supper. The toy vendor Parpignol passes by, besieged by children. Marcello’s former sweetheart, Musetta, makes a noisy entrance on the arm of the elderly but wealthy Alcindoro. The ensuing tumult reaches its peak when, trying to gain Marcello’s attention, she loudly sings the praises of her own popularity. Sending Alcindoro off on a pretext, she finally falls into Marcello’s arms. Soldiers march by the café, and as the bohemians fall in behind, the returning Alcindoro is presented with the check.



At dawn on the snowy outskirts of Paris, a customs official admits farm women to the city. Guests are heard drinking and singing within a tavern. Mimì arrives, searching for Marcello. When the painter appears, she tells him of her distress over Rodolfo’s incessant jealousy. She says she believes it is best that they part. Rodolfo, who has been asleep in the tavern, comes outside. Mimì hides nearby, though Marcello thinks she has left. Rodolfo tells his friend that he wants to separate from Mimì, blaming her flirtatiousness. Pressed for the real reason, he breaks down, saying that her coughing can only grow worse in the poverty they share. Overcome with emotion, Mimì comes forward to say goodbye to her lover. Marcello runs back into the tavern upon hearing Musetta’s laughter. While Mimì and Rodolfo recall past happiness, Marcello returns with Musetta, quarreling about her flirting with a customer. They hurl insults at each other and part, but Mimì and Rodolfo decide to remain together until spring.



Months later in the garret, Rodolfo and Marcello, now separated from their girlfriends, reflect on their loneliness. Colline and Schaunard bring a meager meal. To lighten their spirits the four stage a dance, which turns into a mock duel. At the height of the hilarity Musetta bursts in with news that Mimì is outside, too weak to come upstairs. As Rodolfo runs to her aid, Musetta relates how Mimì begged to be taken to Rodolfo to die. She is made as comfortable as possible, while Musetta asks Marcello to sell her earrings for medicine and Colline goes off to pawn his overcoat. Left alone, Mimì and Rodolfo recall their meeting and their first happy days, but she is seized with violent coughing. When the others return, Musetta gives Mimì a muff to warm her hands and prays for her life. Mimì slowly drifts into unconsciousness. Schaunard realizes that she is dead, and Rodolfo is left desperate.

OPERA San Antonio in the News

Looking Back on Bohème

It was a delight to bring my production of Puccini’s La Bohème to life at Opera San Antonio this past spring and it was an even bigger delight to discover that the show had the company’s highest tickets sales to date!  As wonderful and surprising as that news is, it’s also fitting for an opera that is chock-full of everything an audience is hungry for in today’s world – stunning music, vibrant characters, effervescent and youthful comedy, and a deep love story.

What a gift it was to be able to create a vivid world for an audience to escape into for an evening of theater!  Much of the praise and fun is due to the phenomenal cast we had for the production, particularly our group of bohemians.  Derek Stark, Amanda Kingston, Daniel Scofield, Jessica Jones, Andrew McLaughlin, and Justin Hopkins were essentially living the youthful and artistic life of La bohème both on and off the stage.  Their collective youth, energy, love for each other, and hunger for life was palpable every moment of the day.  Working with artists who have that kind of trust and bond makes it easy to bring an opera of this depth to life in a way that captures a snapshot of youthful hopes and dreams from Puccini’s time to the present.

Puccini’s operas stand out in the repertoire not just for their musical beauty and imagination-capturing storylines, but also because of his ability to propel the dramatic action.  La bohème begins with an unconventional leap into action:  there is no overture, we dive right into the heart of Paris and the world of the bohemians.   I look forward to watching OPERA San Antonio leap into action again this fall with La Traviata on September 13th and 15th.

I plan to be there to watch the action unfold!  Will you?


Loren Meeker


E. Loren Meeker was the Director of La Bohème for OPERA San Antonio in May, 2018.  This summer she is directing Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen for the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown’s New York. Next year she will direct two operas for the Houston Grand Opera: Bizet’s Pearl Fishers, and Florencia en el Amazonas, an opera based on a story by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez.  Her work on La Bohème was praised as follows:  “This is that rare opera production in which every action of every character is purposeful and natural—not a false note the entire evening.  Ms. Meeker’s abundantly intelligently placed details show us who the characters are.”  We hope to welcome Loren Meeker back to San Antonio soon.

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