• The Music of LA BOHÈME

    By COC Staff

    One of the most frequently performed operas worldwide, beloved for its soaring melodies and glorious orchestration, Puccini’s La Bohème is the heart-wrenching tale of a group of struggling artists living in the Parisian Latin Quarter. As a composer, Puccini was a master of emotional storytelling and, here, uses lush instrumentation and unforgettable vocal lines to capture the passions of two very different sets of lovers. 

    In our signature COC production, conducted by dynamic Canadian maestro Jordan de Souza, Puccini’s iconic score comes alive with the story of the Bohemians’ pursuit of  freedom, art, and pleasure—as well as the emotional highs and lows of falling in and out of love.

    Spoiler alert: the following content contains plot points that some audience members may not wish to know in advance!


    1. The sung dialogue of La Bohème follows a relatively natural, realistic pace: while singing beautiful vocal lines, the characters maintain the quick flow of everyday conversation and banter between friends. Puccini relies on tone-painting to meaningfully match words and music—whether by using simple lines to reflect the ailing seamstress Mimì’s sweetness and innocence, or drawing on a delicate blend of strings, harp, and flute to evoke soft snowfall on a winter’s night.

    2. Musical elements are used to signal or refer back to significant moments in the story. The poet Rodolfo’s opening tenor solo, “Che gelida manina” (“What a frozen little hand”) foreshadows Mimì’s inevitable decline, while Mimì’s recollection of this same aria at the end of the opera gives her strength and dignity in her final moments. 

    3. Of the opera’s many unforgettable melodies, arguably the most popular—and certainly the most playful—is “Quando m'en vo,” usually known as “Musetta’s Waltz,” in which the sassy Musetta sings to lure back her ex-lover, the painter Marcello.

    4. La Bohème’s iconic music has been frequently referenced over the years in popular culture, television, and film. Most famously, the opera inspired the popular musical Rent, and also serves as a thematic backdrop to Nicolas Cage and Cher’s relationship in the movie Moonstruck. Extracts also appear in films as varied as Atonement, Deep Impact, and The Deer Hunter.

    5. The news of Puccini’s death in Brussels on November 29, 1924 reached Rome during a performance of La Bohème. The remainder of the performance was cancelled, and the orchestra instead played Chopin's Funeral March—a sombre but fitting tribute to a highly respected and adored composer.

    Keen to hear more? Enjoy a taste of this upcoming production with a clip from our 2023/2024 Season Preview Concert, featuring Charlotte Siegel singing “Quando m’en vo.”.

    Puccini’s La Bohème runs from October 6 – 28, 2023 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.


    Header Photo: Chris Hutcheson, Production Photos: Michael Cooper
    Posted in 23/24 Season


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