La Bohème is one of the three operas – the others are Carmen and Aida – believed to be the most popular ever written. In the case of La Bohème the reason is that it virtually defines the term ‘romantic’. The poignant story of Mimì and Rodolfo is told in music of such tender beauty, allied, as always, to Puccini’s intuition of what works in the theatre, resulting in an opera that readily appeals to our emotions and senses. ‘Che gelida manina – Your tiny hand is frozen…’ The moment when Mimì and Rodolfo meet and first touch is one of the very great moments of opera – created by the master hand of Giacomo Puccini, who unerringly trod the fine line between romance and sentimentality. Thomson Smillie outlines the background to the opera, explaining how painstakingly the composer worked to achieve this effect. An absorbing introduction both for those approaching La Bohème for the first time and for those wanting to know a bit more than just the big arias.