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Ensemble

Infectious Verve

Puccini's 'La bohème' in New Hampshire,
reviewed by MARIA NOCKIN

 

During the winter of 1892, Ruggero Leoncavallo showed his new, as yet unfinished libretto for an opera based on Henri Mürger's Scènes de la Vie de Bohème to fellow composer Giacomo Puccini, who was then considering another story. The following year Puccini began work on the Mürger piece, declaring later that he had no idea the other composer was already using it.

Rodolfo (Gabriel Gonzalez), Colline (Mikhail Kolelishvili), Shaunard (Ilia Pavlov) and Marcello (James Bobick) in Act I of 'La bohème'. Photo © 2006 Robin Grant
Rodolfo (Gabriel Gonzalez), Colline (Mikhail Kolelishvili), Shaunard (Ilia Pavlov) and Marcello (James Bobick) in Act I of 'La bohème'. Photo © 2006 Robin Grant

In the end, the two men agreed that the public would have to make the choice between their versions of La bohème and that is exactly what has happened. Today, Leoncavallo is best known for I pagliacci and his other operas are rarely heard. Puccini, on the other hand, is famous for numerous works and his La bohème is one of the world's most frequently performed operas.

Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Photo courtesy of Opera Resource
Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Photo courtesy of Opera Resource

Puccini's La bohème has a libretto by Luigi Illica, who wrote the prose scenario, and Giuseppe Giacosa, who was responsible for the verses. Its first performance took place on 1 February 1896 at the Teatro Regio in Torino, where it was conducted by a then unknown 28 year old musician, Arturo Toscanini. The critics gave the new opera mixed reviews, but the public loved it from the beginning, and within two years it was translated so that it could easily be understood in London, Vienna, Berlin and Los Angeles.

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Copyright © 12 November 2006 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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