John Podhoretz is right, it’s a feeble opera. It was the first opera I ever
saw–taken by friends who wanted me to “get” opera. I didn’t “get” it, in
fact Boheme nearly put me off it for life. Fortunately I saw a really
good Tosca shortly afterwards, and was hooked. My feelings for Boheme sank even further into the pit when I read about George Marek’s researches into the origins of the story. He discovered that the characters were all based quite closely on real people. The original for Mimi was a girl named Lucile Louvet. She died in a hospital, not a garret, and her body, pickled in formaldehyde, was given to medical students for dissection practice. The knowledge of this fact plays havoc with one’s appreciation of Mimi’s Farewell Aria in Act Three.