Bo Skovhus

LA Opera's Figaro

Figaro Act I, photo by Robert Millard * Notes * 
A revival of Le Nozze di Figaro at LA Opera opened this afternoon. Plácido Domingo kept the orchestra at a good clip, though not exactly brisk, the tempi were comfortable. There were many synchronization problems with singers and the orchestra. The bridesmaid duet in Act III went especially awry, either the singers were out of tune, or the brass was. The chorus held together, however, and the character roles were all perfectly fine. Daniel Montenegro was all but unrecognizable as an elderly Don Curzio, Philip Cokorinos seemed suitably confused as Antonio. Valentina Fleer made for a girlish Barbarina, and her "L'ho perduta, me meschina" was lovely and mournful. Christopher Gillett (Don Basilio) was reedy and unctous, Alessandro Guerzoni (Doctor Bartolo) was stuffy and silly, and Ronnita Nicole Miller (Marcellina) was sassy and a touch too youthful.

Renata Pokupic was winsome as Cherubino, breathlessly enamored. Her "Non so più cosa son" was slightly quiet, but her "Voi che sapete" was clear. In contrast, Martina Serafin sounded loud and full as the Countess and her "Dove sono i bei momenti" lacked a sense of yearning. She could overpower the other singers, but did rein in her volume in "Sull'aria...Che soave zeffiretto." Bo Skovhus was delightful as the Count, his voice is warm but not too heavy. Marlis Petersen was sweet and airy as Susanna, but always audible and her Figaro, Daniel Okulitch, sounded robust and facile.

The production was odd, Ian Judge's direction involved a lot of pacing and reclining. The big dance number in Act III was a hybrid of flamenco and lindy hop that was funny and well-excuted, but it did not really tie together with the rest of the choreography. Some of the costumes were Rococo and some of them looked very fifties. Tim Goodchild's set made for seamless set changes, and looked clean and pretty until the last act. For some reason, this last scene has a wide open stage, so that timing for the ensembles was compromised, as there is nowhere to stand without being seen. Then there was a haunted house in the background with a giant moon, completely at odds with the sleek elegance of the other scenery. At least the spectacle ended with onstage fireworks.

* Tattling * 
The audience talked, but at least people were quiet when hushed. Watch alarms were heard at each hour. A cellular phone rang three times during Act I starting from when Figaro says "Chi suona? La Contessa."

The production garnered much laughter at inappropriate moments, sometimes simply because of the timing of the supertitles. I, for one, laughed very hard at the fireworks.

I had the good fortune to be invited backstage after the performance, and was able to deliver a commissioned cupcake pirate painting.

LA Opera's 2010-2011 Season

September 23- October 16 2010: Il Postino
September 26- October 17 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro
November 27- December 18 2010: Lohengrin
February 19- March 13 2011: Il Turco in Italia
March 12-27 2011: The Turn of the Screw

LA Opera's new season opens with a world premiere, with Plácido Domingo singing the part of Pablo Neruda. Domingo conducts Le Nozze, with Bo Skovhus singing Almaviva in his LA Opera debut. Ben Heppner sings the title role of Lohengrin, Soile Isokoski is Elsa, and Ortrud Dolora Zajick. Paolo Gavanelli sings Don Geronio in Il Turco. Patricia Racette and William Burden star in The Turn of the Screw.

Press Release | Official Site

Deutsche Oper Berlin's 2008-2009 Season

September 13 2008- July 2 2009: Turandot
September 14 2008- March 22 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
September 15-27 2008: Rigoletto
September 20 2008: L'Amico Fritz
September 21 2008- May 2 2009: Die Zauberflöte
September 30- October 8 2008: Pique Dame
October 1-5 2008: The Nose
October 2-7 2008: Chowanschtschina
October 3 2008 - February 15 2009: Der Rosenkavalier
October 22-31 2008: Manon Lescaut
October 30- November 6 2008: Lohengrin
November 20 2008- May 8 2009: La Traviata
November 28 2008- April 12 2009: Aida
November 30 2008- May 31 2009: Tannhäuser
December 8 2008- February 12 2009: Daphne
December 13 2008- March 11 2009: Lucia di Lammermoor
December 14-28 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- January 9 2009: Cunning Little Vixen
December 18 2008- January 4 2009: La Bohème
January 7- June 24 2009: Tosca
January 18- February 14 2009: Die Ägyptische Helena
January 25- February 10 2009: Salome
January 28- February 13 2009: Cassandra / Elektra
February 8-27 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
March 8- July 3 2009: Carmen
March 13- April 25 2009: Un Ballo in Maschera
March 26- April 4 2009:
Andrea Chenier
April 9-24 2009: Marie Victoire
April 30- May 9 2009: Eugene Onegin
May 20- June 2 2009: La Cenerentola
May 26- June 18 2009: Der Freischütz
May 27- June 6 2009: Madama Butterfly
June 10-21 2009: Tristan und Isolde
June 17-25 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 26- July 4 2009: Tiefland

Valery Gergiev conducts Pique Dame, The Nose, Chowanschtschina. Bo Skovhus sings the title role of Eugene Onegin. Roberto Alagna sings Fritz in L'Amico Fritz, with Angela Gheorghiu as Suzel. Gheorghiu returns in May for La Traviata, and in June for Tosca. Angelika Kirchschlager sings the title role of Carmen and Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier. Nancy Gustafson sings the Feldmarschallin in the latter, but only in December. Mariusz Kwiecien sings in the March performances of Lucia, opposite of Burcu Uyar and Elena Mosuc, who share the title role with Ruth Ann Swenson.

2008-2009 Schedule | Official Site

Premiere of Iphigénie en Tauride

Bo Skovhus and Susan Graham, photo by Terrence McCarthy* Notes *
Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride (1779) had its first performance at San Francisco Opera last night. The co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Royal Opera, Convent Garden is rather sparse, not unlike the music itself. The action takes place in a black box and the costumes likewise black, all quite simple. The unadorned staging was suitable, and might have been highly effective were it not for Philippe Giraudeau's exaggerated choreography. The chorus was consigned to the orchestra pit as dancers pantomimed of what had happened thus far to the House of Atreus.

The production is bizarre in other ways as well, the dancers ran around and wrote the names on the walls and floor, only to erase them later with water. The walls poured water, the resulting puddles on the black floor looked more urinous than bloody. The deus ex machina was not represented on stage, but Diane sang in the Grand Tier, which could work for those in the orchestra and boxes, but must have been strange for those around and above her.

The only weak singer was Mark S. Doss as the villain Thoas. He sounded as if he was being strangled. The rest of the singing was incredible, especially Susan Graham in the title role and Bo Skovhus as Oreste. The latter was slightly awkward in his carriage, but dealt well with being tossed around by dancers, he was lifted and made to walk on the walls. Paul Groves (Pylade) sang beautifully as well, though at points the orchestra overwhelmed him.

* Tattling *
The audience was well-behaved, perhaps because it was the opening of an opera not in the standard repertory. Some concupiscent gazes were noted and there was late seating in the boxes, but nothing disruptive. It was rather strange when people craned their necks to see Diane in the audience.

Don Carlos

Way back in November 2003 I attended a couple performances of Don Carlos at San Francisco Opera. They did a five act French version, which is unusual. The two leads, Marina Mescheriakova as Elisabeth and Mark Duffin as Don Carlos, were not particularly impressive. The former was shrill and stiff, the latter was too quiet. Bo Skovhus (Rodrigue) was solid as always, though his movements were somewhat arachnid-like. Violeta Urmana (Princess Eboli) was excellent, her voice was strong and fiery. Her acting was also very good.

The sets and costumes were pretty but not particularly exciting. I found the auto-da-fe to be overly stylized, instead of burning the victims alive, they have them attached to wires and they float away.

Nulla mai temer mi fa.

BsogiovanniThe Bayeriche Staatsoper's production of Don Giovanni had excellent singers but a disappointing staging. Thus far, all the productions of Mozart operas there have been fairly ugly visually, although the production teams have all been different.

Ivor Bolton's conducting was not impressive, the orchestra was not exactly together during the overture, and the singers and the orchestra seemed off from each other from time to time. Perhaps there was no souffleur? I did not see one, but the stage was raked, so maybe the singers were to follow the conductor. During Act I, Scene 20, when Don Giovanni has a ball in order to seduce Zerlina, there were masked musicians onstage in three separate groups. This produced some unintentional dissonance, more a fault of the staging than the conductor.

Nicholas Hytner's staging and Bob Crowley's sets were somewhat baffling. The stage was raked, not steeply, with walls left and right, which had various compartments that would open to be windows or chambers. There were two scrims, one normal and one near the middle which was in two pieces cut diagonally that came together in the middle. These scrims, which I suppose are not technically scrims since they weren't translucent (they were opaque red) served to make the scene changes flawless. The whole stage was red, perhaps the scrims were like valves, and it was meant to be some abstruse symbol of the human heart. This would not explain the huge golden statues of hands, one appearing in Act I Scene 16 when Zerlina sings "Batti, batti, o bel Masetto" and the other in the aforementioned ball scene. We never return to this image in Act II, rendering whatever impact it was to have rather toothless.

The other major motif was the rood. Four little spirits all in white held crosses and would appear here and there, they were particularly disorienting when they surrounded the Commendatore's body.

What was most annoying was the finale, they had Don Giovanni gone entirely mad, hair a mess and barefoot, stumbling and drunk, eating his dinner with his hands on the floor. If he is out of his mind, how is his punishment just? Also, having him costumed so almost made him look Christ-like, hair down, in a plain white shirt, and wrapped in a red blanket. This image, though beautiful, makes no sense.

I must say though, they did a wonderful job with the statue of the Commendatore, the costume was very good and the scene in the graveyard was marvelous. The Commendatore's grave was his likeness on a horse, and this was surprisingly convincing.

Act II, Scene 15, when the statue comes to dinner was fairly effective. The Commendatore on foot was followed by the Grim Reaper astride a white horse. This could have easily been kitsch, but it worked very well.

The costumes, also by Bob Crowley, were all in strong colors, mostly black and red, except for statues and spirits. They were typical Rococo, though the principal sopranos all had flame-shaped, zigzagged borders in contrasting fabric at their hems. Masetto's dark green and black costume was particularly reminiscent of Frans Hals.

As for the singing, it was exceptional. Sopranos Brigitt Hahn and Aga Mikolaj were fine as Donnas Anna and Elvira, respectively. They both had passionate, fiery voices, and I have never heard two sopranos that sounded better together. Julia Rempe was much better as Zerlina than as Blonde in Entführung. Her voice is not full, it has something of an ugly edge, but she sang much better in this, one could actually hear her most of the time, and her intonation was better, perhaps since she didn't have to get that high A all the time as Zerlina. Her voice was definitely distinct from the other two sopranos, which isn't a bad thing.

Robert Saccà is a solid tenor, his voice was good for Don Ottavio, as it was for Belmonte in Entführung. Bass Maurizio Muraro has a strong voice, good diction, and acting ability to boot. Bass Taras Konoshchenko did not strike me one way or another, he could project better than Rempe. Bass Franz-Josef Selig, on the other hand, was distinctively good as the Commendatore, suitably stately and terrifying.

Bo Skovhus was incredible in the title role. Not only does he cut a dashing figure as the unrepentant rake, his voice is simply charming, light, and very suitable for the part. I remember him being similarly good as Count Almaviva in Le Nozze at SFO in 1997.

On a completely personal note, and I commend the reader for getting this far, I left my shawl in the opera house, couldn't find it and was told to wait at the stage entrance for someone to bring it down. This is where all the die-hard opera coots are, waiting for the performers to come out. It was utterly bizarre to see the singers offstage in street clothes, shaking people's hands and autographing programs. I was too bashful to say anything, I just stood there wide-eyed and blushing, no doubt.

Also, the Balkon (balcony) part of the audience appears to be quieter than the the Ränge (the 3 tiers above the balcony level) or the Parkett (floor).