Based on some exchanges on another thread, where Puccini's Boheme came to fore (or at least one of its characters), I had a tour de table with some melomanes, Opera experts and old professors on the essence of this Opera. So, I offer some of my findings for further discussion...evaluation and possible discourse:
In Boheme all the virtues, which characterizes the musical and dramatic style of Puccini, are met. On one hand, there is the theatrical talent of the composer, his ability to pass easily from comedy to tragedy and creates complete characters, mostly the female ones. On the other, his musical inspiration, which is expressed with melodic tunes, particularly brief, but of superb beauty and appeal.
The Orchestra, which is exploited in a very inventive way, is transformed in one of the actors of the plot and unites the different musical pieces, fully integrating them in unfolding the drama. The influence of the late Verdi, predominantly of Falstaff, is witnessed both by the way the plot is exploited and by the melodic line, which has always been based on the lyric discourse and adapted to the stage action. From the other great composer of the 19th century, namely Wagner, Puccini borrowed the leit-motiv, these brief melodic tunes or phrases, representing human characters or situations, which our Italian composer uses as vague recollections from what we have already seen or heard.
Puccini once has claimed that he is exclusively interested in "small" things and he does not intend to deal with anything else but that. This clarification of his intentions may help us to comprehend what La Boheme is all about: an Opera with no particular plot, but which has as its basic angle the tragic love between two humble , almost anonymous people. (A great subject for the thread on Love in Classical Music). Particularly, Puccini is very keen on portraying, in a very refined way, the character of her heroine (Mimi): a creature vulnerable, fragile, but adorable, gentle and full of emotions. At the same time, however, the ominous presence of Death is evident from the outset, giving an incredible balance to the musical and dramatic development of the work (another important subject for the Death thread).
So, do we have a masterpiece, malgre' tout and beyond any specific criticism or is an easily dismissable work, particularly with today's (dreadful, ominous) standards? Discussion is invited on the substance of the work and not that much on recordings. However, by all means, you are welcome to jump on any aspect of the whole thing you may deem it necessary.