The Haus fürMozartTheatrewas sold out, including the 'standing room' seats.
I was in theaudience. The expectations were met as indicated by twenty minutes ofapplauseand ovations. It is highly possible that, over
the next few years,The Exterminating Angelwill be staged in many moretheatresthan those of the fouroriginalco-producers.
Theplotclosely follows the1962Luis Buňuelmovieof the same title, even though the number ofcharactershas been reduced from twenty six to fifteen foroperaticreasons. In short, after aneveningat the opera, six upper class couples meet for a
dinnerpartyat a villa owned by one of the couples. When it
is time for everybody to go home, although the doors are open and there
are no apparent obstacles, no one is capable of crossing the threshold.
As time goes by, even though the police, their families and thelocalpriestattempt to help them to leave the villa, the
group is increasingly thrown back to eachindividual's instinct for self preservation. This includes even thinking of
murder. Eventually, they will be able to exit the villa. But they will be
trapped again. A parable of thehumancondition? According to Buňuel, this is a
parable of the upper class condition.
Adès and Cairns render quite well
the mix of realism, surrealism andreligion, typical of several Buňuel films includingThe Exterminating Angel. The staging isperfectand makes the parable even more engrossing than
This is also due to the music, which
has a tonalstructureand is highly polyphonic. (On stage there is
always a large number of characters.) There arearias,duetsandconcertatolinked by declamation. Thescorerequires a largeorchestraand also unusualinstruments— eg in theintroduction, onlybellsare playing. For the first time, Adès employs
electronic music: ondes martenots, with their delicate and deepsound, just like an exterminating angel: seducer and destroyer at the
same time. The first part is slow and obsessive. In the twointermezziand in the second part, therhythmbecomes rapid until theciacconain thefinale.
The Exterminating Angelrequires fifteen greatactingsingers. Some of the interpreters — Anne Sofie von Otter, Charles
Workman,John TomlinsonandThomas Allen— have been well known opera singers for thirty
years. Among the others — all very good — Audrey Luna (in the role of
Leticia) is especiallyimpressive; herariain the second part, sweet and transparent, is
thepreludeto the group's (temporary)freedom.