Puccini’s “La bohème”: The Perfect Prelude for Opera Beginners

La Boheme dress rehearsal, Summer Hassan, Yongzhao Yu, D'Ana Lombard, Reginald Smith Jr., Timothy Bruno, Shea Owens
Jan 30, 2024

With soaring scores, majestic sets, and a compelling storyline, there is little wonder opera has remained a steadfast staple in performance spaces everywhere. If you have yet to delve into the many productions, Puccini’s masterwork, La bohème, is the place to start your thrilling journey. Discover why Wolf Trap Opera’s upcoming Summer 2024 performance is the perfect prelude for opera beginners!

A Familiar and Famous Musical Explores the Bohemian Lifestyle

There’s a reason society knows how many minutes pass within one year (525,600)! This frequently-performed fun fact can be attributed to the 1996 musical Rent’s signature theme, “Seasons of Love.” Composer Jonathan Larson was heavily inspired by Puccini’s story, pulling many of the characters, musical themes, and plotlines directly from the opera. The song “Light My Candle” directly references the melody of “Che gelida manina,” and a fragment of Museta’s Waltz is used as a motif in “Tango: Maureen.” Once you know what to look for, the operatic Easter eggs will leave you grinning!

It’s Frequently Referenced in Modern Media

Outside of the Tony Award-winning production, a prominent jukebox musical also pulls from Puccini. Moulin Rouge creator Baz Luhrmann directed La bohème in 1993 at the Sydney Opera House and used the story as a major source of inspiration for his upcoming film. The Simpsons protagonist Homer helms the role of Rodolfo in the 2007 episode, “The Homer of Seville.” Nicolas Cage and Cher star in the motion picture Moonstruck, whose Oscar-winning screenplay was also heavily inspired by the bohemian masterpiece.

The Characters Invoke the Same Feelings as a Friend or Neighbor

Transcending the plotline, protagonists Rodolfo, Mimi, Musetta, and Marcello are widely regarded as relatable and realistic. The motley crew is comprised of starving artists who prioritize comraderie, feasts, and life’s simple pleasures over the practicality of paying their rent. Throughout the story, you can see the quartet wrestle with themes of love, money, and health struggles. It’s steeped in realism, crafting a tragic romance that is both raw and resonant.

It Forgoes Some Major Opera Myths

Contrary to what many assume opera entails, this stunning masterpiece maintains approximately a two-hour run time, averaging around the same commitment as any major motion picture. It’s not hard to follow, and the bohemian lifestyle has universal appeal. The music is as accessible as a standard movie soundtrack!

It Pulls from Firsthand Encounters and an Imaginative World All Its Own

Popular media frequently pulls from real life, expertly twisting mundane believability with fantasy. Puccini blends his firsthand experience of living as a penniless student at the Milan Conservatoire while striving to emulate the ambience of Parisian street life, despite having never been to Paris when he wrote La bohème. The personal anecdotes meld perfectly with the fantasy of bohemian Paris, painting a world entirely its own.

La bohème is the ideal, welcoming gateway into the lush world of opera. Boasting relatable characters, a spellbinding libretto, and timeless thematic elements, it is the ideal stepping stone into a brand-new experience. Get your tickets to the Friday, July 19 production now!  


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