An Old Favorite Falls Short of the Mark

By Fred Kirshnit [NY Sun, 3 October 2005]

In 1897, the Vienna Opera needed to decide which version of “La Boheme” to mount, as two composers had published it relatively contemporaneously. Accordingly, they sent their music director-designate, Gustav Mahler, to Venice to hear each on consecutive nights. Mahler wrote back that “one bar of Puccini is worth more than the whole of Leoncavallo.” The latter, however, had a stronger relationship with the administration of the time, and it was his “Boheme” that was presented the following season.