Original 1896 poster by
La bohème (French:
In 1946, fifty years after the opera's premiere, Toscanini conducted a commemorative performance of it on radio with the
As credited on its title page, the libretto of La bohème is based on
Much of the libretto is original. The main actions of acts two and three are the librettists' invention, with only a few passing references to incidents and characters in Murger. Most of acts one and four follow the book, piecing together episodes from various chapters. The final scenes in acts one and four—the scenes with Rodolfo and Mimì—resemble both the play and the book. The story of their meeting closely follows chapter 18 of the book, in which the two lovers living in the garret are not Rodolphe and Mimì at all, but rather Jacques and Francine. The story of Mimì's death in the opera draws from two different chapters in the book, one relating Francine's death and the other relating Mimì's.
The published libretto includes a note from the librettists briefly discussing their adaptation. Without mentioning the play directly, they defend their conflation of Francine and Mimì into a single character: "Chi può non confondere nel delicato profilo di una sola donna quelli di Mimì e di Francine?" ("Who cannot confuse in the delicate profile of one woman the personality both of Mimì and of Francine?"). At the time, the book was in the public domain, Murger having died without heirs, but rights to the play were still controlled by Barrière's heirs.