Christmas Eve. In the Latin Quarter of Paris, in the mansard, bohemian representatives – a poet Rodolfo, a painter Marcello, a musician Schaunard and a philosopher Colline, live barely making ends meet. However, they treat their troubles with humour.
Marcello and Rodolfo work at home. To warm up a little, Rodolfo burns one of his manuscripts.
Colline returns, he did not manage to get money; later Schaunard comes with wine, food and firewood.
The landlord, Benoît, comes to a merry feast with a bill for the room. Being provoked by Marcello, the old man confesses to his love affairs. Taking advantage of this, the guys kick Benoît out for “immorality” without giving him any money.
The friends go to the Cafe “Momus”. Rodolfo stays at home to finish writing the article. A neighbour Mimi comes in – to ask for fire. Young people struck up a conversation. Mimi loses her key. Rudolph finds it, but does not admit it. The more young people learn about each other, the stronger their feelings become. Together they rush to join their friends in the Latin Quarter.
Christmas is celebrated loudly in the Latin Quarter. There are vendors of fruit, sweets, flowers, toys as well as jugglers, mimes, dancers. Rodolfo introduces his fellows to Mimi.
The Marcello’s ex-girlfriend Musetta and her new suitor, rich Alcindoro, attract the attention of others. Marcello is jealous, but he does not show it. Musetta charms her beloved with singing. She charges Alcindoro with mission as she wants to spend time with Marcello. Friends get out of “Momus”, leaving an unpaid bill to the “elderly gentleman” Alcindoro.
February morning in the suburbs of Paris. Marcello has a chance to make some money by painting the cabaret where Musetta teaches singing.
Mimi comes and complains to Marcello about Rodolfo’s unreasonable jealousy which makes her life unbearable. The poet’s sudden appearance makes the girl hide. She involuntarily overhears the conversation of the fellows and she learns the true reason of her beloved’s behaviour: he understands that Mimi is seriously ill and is afraid that he will not be able to support her.
The cough reveals the presence of the girl. Mimi insists on separation. But their love is too strong, they decide to stay together until spring, and then part their ways. Meanwhile, Marcello accuses Musetta of frivolity. They quarrel and finally split off.
The friends are in the same old mansard, which they will leave soon. They are still in poverty. Just like before, only humour and youth save them. Neither Rodolfo nor Marcello forgot their sweethearts.
Suddenly, Musetta comes with a seriously ill Mimi, who has broken up with her lover in order to die near Rodolfo.
Friends take the girl into the room. To fulfil Mimi’s last wish – to buy a muff – Musetta hurries to sell her earrings, and Colline – his coat. Mimi and Rodolfo plunge into memories of the happy days when they were together. Friends are returning. Hiding her chilled hands in a warm muff, Mimi warms up and falls asleep forever.
Opera in four acts, performed with one intermission.
Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.
Based on the book “Scenes of Bohemian Life” by Henri Murger.