La Vie de Bohème
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
La Vie de bohème is an often-adapted story first serialized by Henri Murger in the mid 1800s. These were turned into a play, La Vie de Bohème, in 1849, and later were compiled into the book Scènes de la vie de bohème (Paris, 1851). It has also been made into several operatic versions, the most famous of which was composed by Giacomo Puccini. Most of the characters in the tale were based on Murger's real-life friends and acquaintances. The two "grisettes" Mimi and Musette were based on Lucille Louvet (who died in 1848) and Marie-Christine Roux.
The story includes a group of friends in the Bohemian artistic subculture of France (see Bohemianism). As the group is poor, and some of its female members work as courtesans, challenging personal situations arise when one of the characters, who suffers from tuberculosis, must balance survival against romantic love.
The book was written from Murger's own experiences as a desperately poor writer living in a Parisian attic, member of a loose club of friends who called themselves "the water drinkers" (never money for wine). In his writing he combines instinct with pathos and humour, sadness his predominant tone.
In the late 20th century, the musical Rent was based on La Bohème, with AIDS substituted for tuberculosis. A movie, Moulin Rouge!, was also loosely based on this plot; it was directed by Baz Luhrmann, who had previously directed a wildly successful Australian production of Puccini's opera version which opened on Broadway in 2002.
The book is the basis for the operas La Bohème (Puccini) and La Bohème (Leoncavallo), and, at greater removes, the zarzuela Bohemios (Amadeu Vives), the operetta Das Veilchen vom Montmartre (Kálmán) and the Broadway musical Rent.