Jonathan Miller’s production is set a century later than Puccini’s opera
Written in 1893, composer Puccini set his opera some seventy years earlier, placing his characters in 1830s Paris. No stranger to transporting operas to new eras (his iconic stagings of Verdi’s Rigoletto and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado were drastically updated), Jonathan wanted his bohème to be set in 1930s Paris. One of the main sources of inspiration behind this change from the 19th to the 20th century were Parisian photojournalists of the time, Brassaï and Bresson.
In bringing the setting one hundred years forward, Miller was able to base his set on photos, as opposed to paintings, allowing to truly make his production a snapshot in time.
The props are real...well, some of them.
This naturalistic and tactile production is brought to life by the use of real props. Water runs from the taps, the food is real and even the birds in the cages are real (although they have since been stuffed). One of the few props that isn’t real is the wine!
With the set being based on real photos, it only made sense to Jonathan to interpret these into real life, helping transform both audiences (and cast) into 1930s bohemia.
The characters are based on real people
Although their life stories are fictional, the majority of the characters in the productions have been inspired by people captured by photojournalists of the time. This isn’t only true of the principles. It was just as important to Miller that even the smallest characters have been inspired by people of the time. Keep your eyes peeled for the Act II character based on this photo.
The premiere was cancelled due to snow
Ironically, the production that brings a snowy Parisian winter to life on stage had to be cancelled due to a snowy London winter in 2009. Luckily, the show went ahead two days later and has since been revived 4 times (without any weather issues).