The story? You want to know the story - this is opera! Here goes: impoverished student meets TB suffering girl with cold hands and candle problem in Parisian attic. As they scrabble in the dark trying to find a match (the candle having blown out you see) their hands touch and they fall in love (as you do), in a scene splendidly copied by Wallace & Gromit's "A Close Shave". They shack up together and are destined never to part.
But soon the boy realises he is too poor to look after a consumptive girl so dumps her for her own good, and proceeding to live it up with his mates attempts to forget his misery. The fates re-acquaint them but by now she is terminally ill and eventually dies in his arms coughing perfectly in tune to the last.
So what about the music? This must be one of Puccini's best opera scores shamelessly tugging at the heart strings as the melodies from act one are repeated in Mimi's death throes.
Pavarotti is at his powerful silken best here, seeming so effortless as he reels in the big notes. Mirella Freni gives as good as she gets as coughalot Mimi. The singing throughout is excellent - but I guess really shines through in the great favourites of act 1: "Che Gelida Manina" and the spine-tingling duet "O Soave Fanciulla". While Karajan conducts the Berlin Philharmonic with suitable aplomb and vigour, Rolando Panerai and Elizabeth Harwood provide an excellent support to the two big names, especially Panerai in the duet "In Un Coupe?"
Excellent stuff, classic Puccini, classic opera.