La Bohème

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La Bohème (or La bohème) is an opera in four acts, composed by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa,

The original text

Based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. The story is set in Paris around 1830 and shows the Bohemian lifestyle of a poor seamstress and her artist friends.

International translations and adaptations

Rent, the musical by Jonathan Larson, is loosely based on Puccini's opera. See separate entry on Rent.

South African translations and adaptations

Adapted by Harold David (Hal) Shaper (1931-2004) in 1997/1998 as La Bohème Noir, set in Soweto during the student uprising of 1976.

Adapted as a film Breathe Umphefumlo in 2015, adapted by Pauline Malefane and Mark Dornford-May, and directed by Mark Dornford-May, starring Mhlekazi Mosiea, Busisiwe Ngejane, Pauline Malefane, Sifiso Lupuzi and Luvo Rasemeni. The film moves the action from 19th century Paris to 21st century Khayelitsha, South Africa.

Adapted as La Bohème in District Six by Angelo Gobbato in 2016 to honour the memory of District Six and its bohemian atmosphere where artists of all races and religions had mixed freely and were united in their opposition to apartheid. Cut from four acts to an accessible 90 minutes for a young modern audience.

Performance history in South Africa

1945: Presented by African Consolidated Theatres, conducted by John Connell.

1959: Presented in Afrikaans by the South African Opera Federation, starring Nellie du Toit as Mimi and Gé Korsten as Rodolfo, produced by Hermien Dommisse, conducted by Leo Quayle.

1960: Presented by the EOAN Group, produced by Gregorio Fiasconaro.

1965: Presented by PACT Opera.

1969: Presented by CAPAB Opera in collaboration with UCT, with Nellie du Toit as Musetta and Gé Korsten as Rodolfo, produced by Gregorio Fiasconaro, conducted by David Tidboald.

1971: Presented by NAPAC Opera, with Nellie du Toit as Mimì and Gé Korsten as Rodolfo, produced by James Conrad, conducted by Edgar Cree; presented by PACOFS Opera.

1972: Presented by PACOFS Opera.

1973: Presented by NAPAC Opera.

1974: Presented by PACT Opera; presented by CAPAB Opera.

1975: Presented by CAPAB Opera.

1976: Presented in English by PACT Opera, with Nellie du Toit as Mimì and Gé Korsten as Rodolfo, produced by Neels Hansen, conducted by Leo Quayle.

1990: Presented by CAPAB Opera (10–24 November)

1992: Presented by CAPAB Opera (9–26 June)

1995: Presented by CAPAB Opera (21 September – 7 October)

1997: La Bohème Noir presented by CAPAB Opera (20–30 December), with Marcus Desando, Thokozani Mkhize, Sibongile Mngoma, Agos Moahi, Fikite Mvinjelwa, Zwelitungile Sidloyi, Xoleta Sixaba

2001: Presented by Cape Town Opera (30 November – 4 December)

2004: Presented by Black Tie Ensemble in the Drama, State Theatre (12-20 June 2004). Conductor - Graham Scott; Director - Neels Hansen; Assistant director - Vanessa Nicolau; Décor - Andrew Botha; Additional costumes - Neels Hansen, Bronwen Lovegrove; Lighting - Declan Randall; Repetitor - Susan Steenkamp-Swanepoel; Chorus master - Mathilda Hornsveld/Philip Mokone; Stage manager - Stan Knight; Orchestra - Johannesburg Music Initiative; Concert master - Camelia Onea. With the following cast: Linda Zitha (Marcello), Dewald von Solms (Rodolfo), Vuyani Mlinde (Colline), Jonathan Boinamo (Schaunard), Dawie Couzyn (Benoit), Loveline Madumo (Mimi), Khotso Tsekeletsa (Parpignol), Louette Johnston (Musetta), Dawie Couzyn (Alcindoro), Thabang Senekal & Itumeleng Tladi (Custom-House sergeants).

2006: Presented by Cape Town Opera (6–18 May)

2012: Presented by Cape Town Opera (5–16 May)

2016: La Bohème in District Six presented jointly by the Suidoosterfees and Africa Arts at Artscape Theatre on April 28, 29 and May 1, directed by Tara Notcutt. With a cast of seven, including soprano Amanda Osorio (who is the producer as well as the founder of Africa Arts) as Mimi, Given Nkosi (Rodolfo), Owen Metsileng (Marcello), Kabelo Lebyana (Colline), Njabulo Sifiso Mthimkhulu (Schaunard), Lynelle Kenned (Musetta) and Gobbato (Alcindoro). A 25-piece orchestra is conducted by Alex Fokkens.


Wayne Muller. 2018. A reception history of opera in Cape Town: Tracing the development of a distinctly South African operatic aesthetic (1985–2015). Unpublished PhD thesis.

Fiona Chisholm. 'La Boheme in District Six'. IOL. 26 April 2016.

Sjoerd Alkema. 2012. "Conductors of the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra, 1914-1965: a historical perspective". University of Cape Town. Unpublished PhD thesis.

Alexandra Xenia Sabina Mossolow. 2003. The career of South African soprano Nellie du Toit, born 1929. Unpublished Masters thesis. University of Stellenbosch.

Antoinette Johanna Olivier. 2014. 'Exploring contributions to opera by The Black Tie Ensemble: a historical case study'. Mini-dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master‟s in Music at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University.

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