"La jeunesse n'a qu'un temps" (youth comes only once) wrote the poet Henri Murger in 1862. Thirty-four years later, Giacomo Puccini was inspired by Murger's Scènes de la vie de bohème to compose his opera La bohème. The wintry story of the four young bon vivants and their sweethearts, their love and suffering, would from then on serve as a model for the romantic image we have of the bohemian. The universal, timeless and enchanting character of this opera has rarely been portrayed more aptly than by director Robert Carsen. One of our showpiece productions, La bohème returns – after a triumphant worldwide tour – to Antwerp and Ghent once again.
The opera does not tell a structured story, but sketches an atmosphere in four scenes. The poet Rodolfo and his sweetheart Mimì, the painter Marcello and his singing Musetta, the composer Schaunard and the philosopher Colline: they form a group of creative souls who taste every moment as the most intense and unique in their lives.
Euphoria and deep misery are never far apart. The unforgettable and poignant ending of the opera, with the death of Mimì, immediately marks the end of this unique time in life.
Giving shape to a snapshot like this, of the finitude of the one-time, breathless moment, calls for a new opera form. Puccini therefore let the atmosphere of the individual scenes dictate the musical structure. Where the shivering-cold friends' discussions grow animated, so does the music. When the snowflakes fall from the sky in the third scene, Puccini lets the flutes and harp flutter gently into the carpet laid down by the celli. The score is a perfectly fitting osmosis of realism, humour and romance.