La Bohème is one of the world’s best loved operas: a century after its completion, it has been translated into countless different languages and is one of the three most performed works in the entire operatic repertoire. The opera, an adaptation of Murger’s novel Scenes de la vie de Bohème, was first performed on 1st February 1896, at the Teatro Regio in Turin.
Puccini’s opera, rich in beautiful melodies throughout, is universally recognised as one of the greatest ever written. A moving romantic story, culminating in a tragic deathbed reconciliation, is set against an evocative portrayal of bohemian life in 1830s Paris. The contrast between the frivolous lifestyle of the four main characters, and the grave problems which come to confront them, is immensely poignant, and is a key element of the opera’s deep and lasting appeal.
This picture portrays the scene at the Café Momus in Act II. On Christmas Eve, Rodolfo has repaired to the café with his friends, and has just introduced them to his new girlfriend, Mimí. At the adjacent table, Marcello’s former lover Musetta ignores her elderly companion in a bid to attract the attention of her old boyfriend. This stunning work of art is produced, in accordance with the artist’s customary technique, using only the labels taken from bottles of fine wine.