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Directed by King Vidor




95 minutes, silent with live piano accompaniment


Live piano accompaniment by Joseph Li, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University

Houston Grand Opera sets the silent film alongside Puccini’s heartbreaking operatic score for a unique presentation of story, film, and music.

This version of La Bohème is not based on the libretto of Puccini’s opera, but goes back to that work’s source: Henri Murger’s 1851 French stories Scènes de la vie de bohème (Scenes from Bohemian Life). Lillian Gish (Mimi) and John Gilbert (Rodolphe) star in the (considerably cleaned-up) story of starving artists living in the same apartment building. Set in the bohemian world of in Paris’s Latin quarter in 1830, the love story follows a couple and their friends who struggle to pay the rent each month. Mimi encourages Rodolphe to finish writing a play, but through her sacrifices and unfortunate circumstances, she deceives him into thinking his play will be performed. Heartbreak and tragedy ensue as the lovers are torn apart by poverty, jealousy, misunderstanding, and illness.

About the Pianist
Last season, pianist/coach Joseph Li served as guest coach to Houston Grand Opera’s Dead Man Walking and Wolf Trap Opera’s world premiere of John Musto’s The Inspector. Other recent engagements include a third summer season with the Aspen Opera Theater Center where he served as senior coach and chorus master for Falstaff, serving as music director for HGO’s Song of Houston: Courtside, Song of Houston: Your Name Means the Sea, a tour through China and Singapore with Singers Beyond Borders, and playing keyboard for Frank Wildhorn’s new musical Finding Wonderland at Houston’s Alley Theatre. An alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Li has coached several operas there including Lohengrin, La fille du regiment, La Bohème, Béatrice et Bénédict, and the world premiere of Chorus!, and he served as head coach for the world premiere of André Previn’s A Brief Encounter. Along with serving on the coaching faculty for the Aspen Opera Theater Center the last two summer seasons, Li also joined Pinchas Zukerman and Opera Lyra Ottawa as principal coach/repetiteur for OLO’s production of Die Zauberflöte.

• 35mm print provided by UCLA Film & Television Archive, courtesy Packard Humanities Institute.
• Community Partner: HGOco.
• Houston Grand Opera presents Puccini’s "La Bohème" October 19–November 10.