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La Bohème

Music Giacomo Puccini Text Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica
→ Oper in vier Bildern

31. January 2023
19.00 - 21.30
1 intermission
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Cast 31.01.2023

Musical Direction Eun Sun Kim
Inszenierung und Bühne Franco Zeffirelli
Costume Design Marcel Escoffier



Click here to download the online programme booklet (2,50€, manly in German)



Act 1

Under the command of their corporal Moralès, soldiers are on guard duty outside a cigarette factory in the South of Spain. Micaëla, a young woman from the Basque region, is looking for a man she grew up with, Don José. He is not on duty. When the soldiers start to scare her making strong advances, she runs away.

After the changing of the guard, as José goes on duty, the cigarette factory employees take a long break. The female workers enter the square – watched enthusiastically by the men. The woman most eagerly awaited is Carmen. She arrives and sings a song about the unpredictability and uncontrollability of love. At the end, she throws a flower to José.

Micaëla gives José a letter and tells him, that his mother has also instructed her to give José a kiss for her. José is moved and confused about this surprising remembrance of his past life.

The female workers alarm the guarding soldiers: during a fight Carmen has injured one of her co-workers. During questioning by the lieutenant Zuniga, Carmen answers provocatively. José is ordered to guard and keep a watch on Carmen. By flirting and the promise of possibly meeting her later at Lilia Pastia’s bar, Carmen makes José neglect his duties. Carmen is able to escape.

Act 2

On the outskirts of the city, Lilia Pastia hosts an improvised bar in which Zuniga and Morales are guests entertained by Frasquita and Mercédès. Carmen sings a stimulating song. Accompanied by celebrating soldiers, the bullfighter Escamillo then arrives. After being cheered and acclaimed, he moves on with his entourage.

The smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado suggest to the women a potential criminal maneuver in which their feminine charms are particularly required. Frasquita and Mercédès accept and join them, but Carmen declines. She is in love with José and chooses to wait for him.

José was punished to two months in prison because of Carmen’s escape, but today he can finally see her again. Unfortunately, after a short time, the last post trumpet call is heard and Carmen is infuriated that José wants to follow the call and return obediently to the barracks. The argument escalates. At the moment José finally decides to leave, lieutenant Zuniga returns to the bar, who has likewise thrown a glance at Carmen. José defends her aggressively. As José and Zuniga fight each other, the smugglers return and dispatch the lieutenant. Since José has now ignored the last trumpet call and attacked his superior officer, there is no way back and he has no choice but to lead a life as a member of the smugglers’ gang.

Act 3

In the frontier zone, the smugglers meet and wait for an opportunity to bring their goods over the border. Carmen and José are arguing with each other, and not for the first time: she will not let herself be controlled, and in such moments, he sees the devil in her.

Mercédès is convinced she will find a great love, while Frasquita predicts for herself a rich husband who will soon pass away. Carmen sees death in the cards: first her own and then José’s.

The smugglers get to work. Micaëla has managed to catch up to the smugglers but narrowly misses their withdrawal. She hides, waits, and hopes to find José.

José, who has stayed behind in sentry duty, meets Escamillo, who would like to see Carmen again. José attacks him with a knife. The returning smugglers separate the fighters. Escamillo takes leave of them confident of his victory and invites them all to his next bullfight. The smugglers discover Micaëla. She begs José to return to his mother. José hesitates because he is fearful that in his absence Carmen could turn her attention to Escamillo. Micaëla finally explains that José’s mother is dying and can thereby at last convince him. Escamillo’s song is heard in the distance.

Act 4

The arena’s entrance is full of excitement. The fans are cheering for the entering participants of the bullfight, especially the wildly acclaimed matador Escamillo. Before the bullfight begins, he and Carmen pledge their love to each other.

Frasquita and Mercédès warn Carmen about José, who they have seen in the crowd, but Carmen refuses to evade the confrontation and stays behind alone. José begs Carmen to renew their relationship and threatens her, but she no longer loves him and is not willing to play the hypocrite. While the fans in the arena celebrate the successful Escamillo, José stabs Carmen.


The literary model for »La Bohème«, which premiered in Turin in 1896 under Arturo Toscanini, is the highly successful episodic novel by French author Henri Murger. In it, composer Giacomo Puccini rediscovered the atmosphere of his own blissfully nostalgic years as a student: »Here I found everything I was looking for and loved: origin, youth, passion, humour, tears shed in secret, and love that brings joy and sorrow.« Together with his librettists, he condensed the loose sequence of pictures of the original plot to a two-hour play and created tangible character portraits of his young Parisian urban heroes, whom he then had act in social settings that were precisely outlined by music, thus lending sound to all the facets of the material. The story of the terminally ill Mimì, who is allowed to experience the happiness a great love brings in the midst of poverty and illness, soon became a staple on international repertoires. The same is true for Vienna: the opera has been performed roughly a thousand times at the State Opera and is thus one of the most successful works ever. With Armenian soprano Ruzan Mantashyan and Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan, a new generation of singers has now entered the stage – and is a fresh take on Franco Zeffirelli's classic, image-packed production.