Italian Opera Class VI: Puccini

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La Boheme

Music– Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

Libretto- Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica

Premiere- Turin (1896)

Setting- Latin Quarter in Paris; time about 1830

Principal Roles-

Rodolfo (lyric tenor), Marcello (baritone), Schaunard (baritone), Colline (bass or bass baritone), Benoit/Alcindoro (character bass), Mimi (lyric soprano), Musetta (lyric soprano)


Mimi, a little seamstress, lives in the building where Rodolfo, a poet, and Marcello, a painter, share a rather cheerless attic studio. Here their friends, Schaunard, a musician, and Colline, a philosopher, frequently join them. On Christmas Eve, Mimi’s candle goes out, and she seeks a light from Rodolfo. It is love at first sight but destined for tragedy for Rodolfo is penniless and Mimi is quite ill. They separate, as Marcello and his pretty, pert Musetta have separated but the opera concludes when Mimi returns to Rodolfo & her friends when she knows that she is dying.

YouTube Video Links:

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Production (2014) Nicola Luisotti, conductor/ John Copley, director

Cast includes Angela Gheorghiu as Mimi & Vittorio Grigolo as Rodolfo

[22:35-37:45] Act 1, Rodolfo & Mimi “Che gelida manina”, “Mi chiamano Mimi” & “O soave fanciulla”

[53:20-58:50] Act 2, Mimi & ensemble “Quando m’en vo’soletta”

[1:17:30-1:20:40] Act 3, Mimi & Rodolfo “D’onde lieta usci”

[2:01:30-2:13:30] Act 4, final scene, Mimi, Rodolfo & ensemble


Music- Giacomo Puccini

Libretto- Luigi Illica & Giuseppe Giacosa

Premiere- Rome (1900)

Setting- Rome (June ,1800)

Principal Roles-

Floria Tosca (dramatic or spinto soprano), Mario Cavaradossi (spinto tenor), Baron Scarpia (dramatic baritone)


Floria Tosca, a famous singer, is beloved by the painter Mario Cavaradossi and desired by Baron Scarpia, Rome’s diabolical chief of police.  The opera opens as Cavaradossi is at work on a painting of the Madonna in the church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle. He discovers an escaped prisoner, his friend Angelotti, hiding in the family chapel and resolves to help him.  Tosca enters and expresses her jealousy of the model for Cavadossi’s painting, the Marchese Attavanti, who has been frequently seen in the church. After her departure, Cavaradossi sends Angelotti to hide at his country villa, just before Scarpia and his henchmen arrive. When Tosca returns, her jealousy is revived by the lecherous Scarpia, who shows her a fan left in the family chapel by the Attavanti. In Act 2, Cavaradossi has been arrested and then tortured in Tosca’s hearing, until she reveals Angelotti’s whereabouts. Attempting to secure Cavaradossi’s release, Tosca offers money & then herself to Scarpia in return for a pardon for her lover and safe-conduct out of Rome. Scarpia agrees but insists that a mock execution take place. as he advances amorously towards her, Tosca stabs him, extricates the passport from his hand and rushes to the Castel Sant’ Angelo where her lover awaits execution. In Act 3, the couple share a moment of joy together before the “mock” execution. But then Tosca realizes too late that the bullets were real.  Her shock & horror is interrupted by the arrival of Scarpia’s henchman Spoletta, who has discovered the baron’s body and in final despair Tosca leaps over the parapet to her death.

YouTube Video Links:

Film Production (1976) New Philharmonia Orchestra, Bruno Bartoletti, conductor/Gianfranco de Bosio, director 

Cast includes Raina Kabaivanska (Tosca), Placido Domingo (Cavaradossi), & Sherrill Milnes (Scarpia)

[7:00-10:05] Act 1, Cavaradossi & sacristan, aria “Recondita Armonia”

[40:50-46:50] Act 1 finale, Tosca, then Scarpia & ensemble “Te Deum”

[1:14:20-1:28:00] Act 2, Tosca & Scarpia, aria “Vissi d’arte” & act finale

[1:37:40-1:40:45] Act 3, Cavaradosi, aria “E lucevan le stelle”

[1:49:00-1:55:27] Tosca &Cavaradossi, final scene

Recommended Opera Resources:

The New Milton Cross’ Complete Stories of the Great Operas

Doubleday & Co. Publisher (1965) [out of print but check on Amazon or used book shops]

Eyewitness Companions: Opera by Alan Riding & Leslie Dunton-Downer

DK Publishing (2006) []

The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera by Roger Parker

Oxford University Press (paperback, 2001) 

Opera 101, A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera, by Fred Plotkin

Hyperion Publishing (1994) [perhaps out of print but can be found on Amazon]