The main characters of La Bohème are typical, mid-nineteenth-century Parisians: the poet Rodolfo, the painter Marcello, and others. One day, the seamstress Mimi enters their poverty-stricken, youthfully exuberant world. But Mimi's fate has already been sealed... As her disease progresses, the support of her friends and the love of Rodolfo bring new meaning to her life. Its touching story and wonderful melodies have made La Bohème one of the most popular operas in history.The successful production returns to the LNO stage after a few years break.
In the square outside the café, a happy Christmas Eve crowd greets each other. Rodolfo's friends are at a table outside the café and Rodolfo joins them with Mimì. As they order food and wine, Parpignol the toy vendor crosses the square followed by the children. A sudden loud laugh signals the arrival of Musetta, Marcello's estranged lover. She is accompanied by the aged but wealthy Alcindoro who is out of breath trying to keep up with her. Spotting Marcello, Musetta tries to make him jealous, then to make him aware, without arousing her escort's suspicions, that she still loves him. Feigning that a shoe hurts, she makes the ridiculous Alcindoro undo and remove it, and then hurry off to the cobbler's. She and Marcello then embrace, and she joins the five friends at their table. The friends disappear just as Alcindoro returns to find he is stuck with the bill for all of them.
At a gate to the city of Paris, Mimì enters looking pale, distressed and frailer then ever. She sits on a bench near a tavern where she has sent a message to Marcello. When he comes out she greets him lovingly, but refuses to go inside with him to see Rodolfo. She weeps and tells Marcello that Rodolfo is so jealous of her she fears they must part. When Rodolfo, having missed Marcello, comes out to look for him, Mimì hides, and overhears her lover tell his friend that he wishes to give her up because of their frequent quarrels. A fit of coughing announces Mimì's presence to Rodolfo and he runs to her. In a touching duet, the two agree to part. Meanwhile Marcello, who has re-entered the tavern, has caught Musetta flirting with a stranger. This starts a quarrel which brings them into the street where the lovers' farewells become a quartet - one couple gentle and melancholy, the other aggressive and disputatious. Musetta and Marcello storm off angrily, while Mimì and Rodolfo agree to stay together until Spring.
Back in the garret, Rodolfo is longing for Mimì, from whom he has heard nothing, and Marcello for Musetta who, having left him, is having a fling with a wealthy patron. Schaunard and Colline come in and the four attempt to forget their sorrows and poverty by indulging in some frolic. At the height of their fun, Musetta enters with Mimì who is dying and has asked to be brought back to the garret where she and Rodolfo had been so happy. As Rodolfo tries to warm her cold hands, Musetta gives her earrings to Marcello, asking him to sell them in order to buy a tonic for the dying girl. There is no coffee, no wine, so Colline takes his overcoat, bids it farewell, and then takes it out to buy provisions. Musetta runs off to get a muff to warm Mimì's hands. Left alone, the former lovers recall happy memories of their time together. When Rodolfo leaves her bed, believing her to be resting, the others become aware that she has died and try to keep it from him. When he reads in their faces what has happened, he falls upon her lifeless form sobbing and crying out her name.