Bo Skovhus, Philip Cokorinos, Daniel Okulitch, Marlis Petersen, Martina Serafin Photo: Robert Millard/LAO 2010
Everyone who loves opera has a handful of pieces they never seem to get tired of. I’m not necessarily talking about favorites, though they can be. I’m talking about operas that you can sit through over and over again regardless of the circumstances and are perfectly willing to plop down money to see them again. Mozart has written a number of those for me, and Le Nozze di Figaro
always seems to be a musical marvel. Now that doesn’t mean that every time I see a performance of the opera that it’s a good one. It just means I seem to have a high tolerance even for the bad ones. So I will admit that I was not dreading Los Angeles Opera’s third presentation of Ian Judge’s staging of Le Nozze di Figaro
this season. (It was previously here in 2004 and 2006.) What was surprising is not only how well it holds up, but how good of a show overall this revival is. I like Judge’s colorful, humorous and period non-specific staging. The sets are often dark making room for some interesting lighting effects including the use of flashlights by the cast in Act IV, a shimmering imitation gold-leaf wall in Act II, and of course the still surprising fireworks finale. (There are fire codes in L.A., right?) In fact having seen Figaro
in most U.S. houses, I feel I can say with some authority that Judge’s staging is easily the freshest this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The other thing I love about this opera is that since virtually all professional vocalists of any stripe sing one of the five major roles, the casts always have a sort of random dinner party feel. How did these five end up in the same room? You begin to wonder. The current L.A. cast is no different. The title role goes to Daniel Okulitch who is as attractive as he was in the ill-fated premiere of Howard Shore’s The Fly in 2008
. The good news is that since that time his star has been on the rise with a number of well-received roles and his Figaro was a nice reminder of what a good vocalist he is, too. His Susanna, for at least the first three performances in her L.A. debut, is another increasingly hot commodity, Marlis Petersen who got to pinch hit for Nathalie Dessay in this year’s big premiere of Hamlet at the Metropolitan Opera
before turning around to perform her signature Lulu
there only weeks later. Her Susanna is bright and subtle without being bogged down with too much spunk which is a hazard in this part. Count Almaviva brought another local debut from another hunk of operatic eye candy, Bo Skovhus, whose vocal charms in this role have been well documented on the DVD of Claus Guth’s Salzburg production
. He was comic and very well controlled, also without being too blustery.
Matina Serafin sang a vocally upsized Countess Almaviva and while I was a bit unnerved that she went at this like it was Wagner at first, she grew on me. Renata Pokupić’s Cherubino and Ronnita Nicole Miller’s Marcellina were also highlights. Of course, L.A. Opera’s Le Nozze di Figaro
has more often than not been a bigger and more modern sounding one than you might run across elsewhere. This was especially true under the baton of Placido Domingo, the company’s director who is also starring in the concurrently running Il Postino
. Domingo’s work as a conductor rightly or wrongly has a reputation of being much kinder to singers than it is at times to audiences. He did give the singers a wide berth when it came to tempi and things did feel a little slow to start. However, the pace improved over time and his Mozart leadership was more than reasonable with the hometown crowd giving him lots of love all the same. So what’s not to like? Le Nozze di Figaro
runs through October 17.
Labels: LA Opera 10/11