Another Italian composer and rival of Puccini, Ruggiero Leoncavallo, also composed an opera titled La bohème. In a rather public meeting, Leoncavallo accused Puccini of stealing his subject material. Refusing to let go of the idea, Puccini proposed the following solution; that the public should decide which version they preferred. After ten years of co-existing in Italian theatres, Puccini’s version emerged as the favored bohemian opera.
At the time that it was produced, Puccini’s La bohème was considered quite risqué. Just think about it—the story centers around the open affair of Rodolfo and Mimi, and it is heavily suggested that the two are sleeping together despite being unmarried.
As a teenager, Puccini walked twenty miles to buy a ticket for a performance of Verdi’s Aida. He found it so inspiring that he chose to dedicate himself to the composition of opera.
One of the most monumental arias in La bohème can also be found on film. Just check out the score of "Moonstruck", featuring Cher and Nicolas Cage.
One of Broadway’s most well-known musicals uses Puccini’s opera as source material. Jonathan Larson’s RENT couldn’t be more unlike La bohème upon first glance—it is, after all, a rock musical—but beyond this, the similarities are quite clear. The two works share certain musical aspects, plot, lyrics and character names. Rodolfo is embodied in the character Roger and his love interest, Mimi, retains her name in the Broadway production. The lives of poor young artists are central to each work, and both plots are driven by medical epidemics—one encounters tuberculosis in La bohème and HIV/AIDS in RENT. Musical parallels are seen in the songs “Che gelida manina” and “Light My Candle” and frequent references to “Musetta’s Waltz” are made throughout the score of RENT.
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