Operas are through composed. It means the whole story is told by music from the beginning to an end. In musicals, the spoken text and songs tend to alternate. In theatre, spoken text is at times enhanced with musical material. We are going to look at Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème opera to find out, what kind of musical structures are used to create an opera.
SYNOPSIS MEANS THE SHORT VERSION OF STORY
The events take place in Paris, before 1st world war, in theatre time. Young bohemian friends RODOLFO the poet, MARCELLO the painter, SCHAUNARD the musician and COLLINE, the philosopher, share a modest studio flat in the attic. It is Christmas eve and men’s money have run out. Schaunard arrives and brings in good news. He has played music to a wealthy English man’s parrot and has earned some money. The bohemians decide to celebrate in their local cafe. Landlord BENOIT arrives and demands their outstanding rent. In order to get away from the situation, the bohemians offer Landlord drinks until he is drunk. While friends make their way to cafe, Rodolfo stays behind and finishes off the magazine article he has written. MIMI knocks the door. She is looking for someone to light her candle. Rodolfo and Mimi meet the first time and fall in love.
Crowds gather to celebrate Christmas eve at the square. Rodolfo introduces Mimi to his friends. Marcello notices that MUSETTA, his lover, approaches in the company of an older, wealthy gentleman. Musetta teases Marcello but in the end, they make peace. When it is time to pay the bill, Musetta manages to direct it to her older, now somewhat confused, companion.
It is an early February morning by a square gate. Mimi’s heath has weakened. She confides Marcello that perhaps it is time to split up with Rodolfo. Rodolfo comes out of cafe and Mimi hides. Rodolfo tells Marcello he intends to leave Mimi as the loves quarrel constantly. Mimi’s hideaway is discovered, and the lovers agree to separate. Musetta and Marcello begin to quarrel.
At the bohemians’ studio flat, in the attic. Many months have passed since the two friends have seen their ex-lovers. Suddenly Musetta arrives and shares the news: Mimi is very sick, and she cannot climb the steps up. The friends bring her in, and Mimi and Rodolfo sing together a love duet where they share a dream of a warm Spring. They all, in their own unique way, hope to improve Mimi’s condition by selling of some of their dear belongings. Unfortunately, it is too late. Mimi dies and Rodolfo is utterly devastated.
The opera singers’ voices are divided by vocal registers. The register defines the ambitus where one’s voice sounds and resonates the best. The composer, who composes for human voice, uses these registers to make sure that the music can be sung. The opera singers’ vocal technique is highly developed therefore they do not need microphones in order to be heard over the orchestra.
Coloratura soprano: Highest female voice. Whoever is a coloratura soprano, can sing truly high notes.
Soprano: A high female voice. In many operas soprano tends to be the lead character, or one of them (MIMI and MUSETTA).
Mezzosoprano: A female voice that sounds between soprano and alto. Boys can also be mezzos.
Alto: A low female voice.
Tenor: A high male voice. In many operas the hero of the story (RODOLFO).
Baritone: A second lowest male voice (MARCELLO, SCHAUNARD).
Bassbaritone: A male voice that is even lower than baritone.
Bass: The lowest voice of them all. Bass can sing truly low notes (COLLINE, BENOIT).