Bohemianism and Counter-Culture


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 The 1996 Broadway rock musical Rent by Jonathan Larson is a modern expression of the Bohemian ideal. The musical is based extensively on Puccini's La Boheme, incorporating musical themes, plot twists, and even lyrics of the opera. However, Rent also examines modern issues, such as homosexual relationships, AIDS, and drug addiction.


 Premiering on February 13, 1996, the musical won widespread acclaim, a group of passionate fans (who call themselves "Rentheads"), and several important prizes: the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, six Drama Desk Awards, three Obie Awards, four Tony Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize.

 The musical takes place in New York City's East Village; its characters are young artists attempting to make a living while staying true to their ideals. Many of them are HIV-positive; the need to prove their brief lives were worthwhile and productive consumes them. They try to live each day at a time, concentrating on the value of their relationships with one another.  

More than a century later, Murger's story of Bohemian life
continues to resonate.

Rent and La Boheme: Similarities


 La Boheme
  • Main characters are:
    • Mark, a filmmaker
    • Roger, a composer
    • Mimi, a dancer - Roger's love interest
    • Collins, a philosopher
    • Angel Schunard, a musician - Collins's love interest
    • Maureen, an actress - Mark's former girlfriend
    • Joanne, a lawyer - Maureen's new girlfriend
    • Benny, the landlord
  • Main characters are:
    • Marcello, an artist
    • Rodolfo, a painter
    • Mimi, a seamstress - Rodolfo's love interest
    • Colline, a philosopher
    • Schaunard, a composer
    • Musetta, Marcello's former girlfriend
    • Alcindoro, Musetta's new boyfriend
    • Benoit, the landlord
  • Mark and Roger warm themselves in the first scene by burning Mark's screenplays and Roger's music posters.
  • Rodolfo and Marcello warm themselves in the first scene by burning Rodolfo's five-act drama.
  • Mimi enters Mark's and Roger's apartment during a power outage, looking for a light for her candle. Her first song ends with the words "They call me Mimi."
  • Mimi enters Marcello's and Rodolfo's apartment looking for a light for her candle. Her first aria begins with the words "They call me Mimi."
  •  Roger is mezmerized by Mimi's "hair in the moonlight."
  • Rodolfo sings of Mimi's "sweet visage bathed in a soft lunar dawn."
  • Maureen sings:
    "Every single day, I walk down the street I hear people say 'Baby's so sweet.' Ever since puberty, everybody stares at me Boys, girls, I can't help it, baby."
  • Musetta sings:
    "When I walk alone through the street people stop and stare, and all seek in me my beauty from head to foot."
  • Angel is hired to kill an annoying dog by drumming incessantly.
  • Schaunard is hired to kill an annoying parrot by "incessant musical performance" (Groos and Parker, 14)
  • Roger says he wants to leave town because Mimi has renewed her relationship with her previous boyfriend, but Mark encourages him to admit that he is afraid that she will soon die and does not want to grow too close to her.
  • Rodolfo says he wants to stop his relationship with Mimi because she is flirtatious, but eventually reveals to Marcello that she is also deathly ill.
  • After Roger and Mimi's separation, Maureen finds Mimi "freezing" in a park and brings her to Mark and Roger's.
  •  After Rodolfo and Mimi's separation, Musetta meets Mimi, who is "so cold," on the street and takes her to Marcello and Rodolfo's.
  • As Mimi lies dying, she says to Roger, "I should tell you - I love you"
  • As Mimi dies, she says "I have so many things I want to tell you ... you are my love and all my life!"
  • Mimi nearly dies of AIDS at the end of the musical.
  • Mimi dies of tuberculosis at the end of the opera.