Parlando: The COC Blog


La Bohème in Pop Culture

By Meighan Szigeti, Associate Manager, Digital Marketing

Like Wagner's Die Walküre before it, Puccini’s La Bohème is one of those popular operas that seeps into our pop-culture subconscious. Many audience members who are new to opera might hear a duet or an aria from La Bohème and suddenly exclaim “oh THAT’S where I’ve heard that!” or “That was in Moonstruck?! Wow, I need to become more cultured.”

Well, that last point may not be the case... but if you find yourself wondering if La Bohème is well represented in TV and movies (aside from Rent, let's focus on the lesser-known references you may have missed), here are a few examples of where you have have seen Puccini’s most-performed opera referenced by other pop-culture creators:

The Simpsons

It took The Simpsons almost 19 seasons to do it, but in episode 402, opera finally makes a significant appearance! In "The Homer of Seville" episode, Homer finds himself unexpectedly acquiring new operatic singing abilities after an injury — but only when he’s lying down. His singing impediment does require a bit of a rewrite of the libretto (“Rudolfo, why are you lying down?” “I hurt my foot.”), but Monty Burns (General Director, Artistic Director and founder of the Springfield Opera) doesn't seem to mind. Even opera stars like Plácido Domingo, or “P Dingo” as he calls himself, made an appearance in that episode and Homer became an opera star — for a short time.

There may have been a few rewrites...


Nic Cage and Cher in front of the Met in Moonstruck.

Remember Moonstruck? It’s easy to think of the famous “Snap out of it!” scene, but Moonstruck uses opera and La Bohème to illustrate a heartbreaking and even illicit passion between Nick Cage’s character Ronny to Cher’s Loretta. (If you don’t remember — in short, Loretta is engaged to Ronny’s estranged brother Johnny, a very operatic plot-line.) As Loretta watches Mimì's heartbreak unfold, her own heart breaks as she realizes her connection to Johnny is a love she also must leave behind. (Trivia time! The opera scene was shot in the Elgin Theatre and the Mimi and Rodolfo on stage are played by Ensemble Studio grads John Fanning and Martha Collins!)

"Listen, under the pillow I left my pink bonnet."
"Se vuoi, Se vuoi" (It's yours, it's yours)"

"Keep it as a memory of our love."
"Addio, addio senza rancor." (Goodbye, no regrets).

Talk about a meta-heartbreak scene.

Kate and Leopold

“Why yes, this is my time-travelling steed…”

Not exactly the finest of movies, but even La Bohème has its place in this cheesy romcom. Kate and Leopold is a story about a time-travelling Duke (Hugh Jackman) from the 19th century who winds up in the 21st century and falls in love with a cynical 21st century woman, played by Meg Ryan. Yes, you read that right. However, by using his knowledge of La Bohème, Leopold schools a rival for Kate’s affections, correcting Kate’s arrogant boss in his many mistakes when talking about Puccini’s masterpiece (though here’s some movie trivia for you: according to, Leopold was from 1876 — twenty years before La Bohème even premiered. Maybe he read a little bit of Murger's La vie de bohème, which inspired the opera?) But, oh well, he showed up his lady love’s jerky boss and subsequently won over the girl!

As you can see, references to La Bohème are everywhere. Another favourite? When "O Soave Fanciulla" is used in a key scene in Atonement. But did you also know the music from La Bohème was also used in action movies Deep Impact and The Deerhunter? What are your favourite pop culture references for La Bohème? Let us know in the comments! 

You can learn more about our fall production of Puccini's oft-referenced opera here

Photos: (top) Simpsons, 2007. 20th Century Fox ;(middle) Simpsons, 2007. 20th Century Fox; (middle) Moonstruck, 1987. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; (bottom) Kate and Leopold, 2001. Miramax Films.

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in La Bohème / comments (0) / permalink

Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001



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