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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: The Exterminating Angel

Thomas Adès' new opera arrives, where no-one is allowed to leave.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The party's not over: a scene from The Exterminating Angel.
Photo by Monika Rittershaus from the Salzburg Festival, courtesy the Metropolitan Opera.
A group of strangers are held in place by a mysterious force. Is it Stephen King's Under the Dome? The Eagle's "Hotel California?" No, it's The Exterminating Angel, a new opera based on the work that may have inspired those works of art,  The opera is based on the surreal 1962 film by Luis Buñue. At a strange dinner party, the guests find out that they are not allowed to leave. Their imprisonment turns comedy into drama and reveals the base nature of the many protagonists.

What is The Exterminating Angel?
This is Thomas Adès' new opera based on the film. It premiered at Salzburg in 2016 and was also performed this year at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Its strange story is either fascist metaphor or bourgeois satire, depending on one's point of view. This is the Met's first performance of the opera and its North American premiere.

What's The Exterminating Angel about?
A guy who works as an exterminator in New York starts sniffing his own roach powder...oh wait that's the plot of Naked Lunch! A group of socialites, aristocrats, artists and even an opera singer have a banquet together and decide to rough it overnight. The next morning, a mysterious force stops them from leaving, and the group descends into barbarism. Think Lord of the Flies if all the characters were adults.

What's the music like?
New Yorker critic Alex Ross, who saw this show in Salzburg and reviewed it under the title "No Exit"  describes a large principal cast of eight singers with a total of twenty-two roles. Adès, whose past operas include Powder Her Face and The Tempest, writes for a dense, expanded orchestra, with heavy brass, percussion, bells and even an ondes Martenot, the strange 20th century electronic instrument used in the music of Oliver Messiaen.

Who's in it?
The cast features a spectrum of great singers, from bass John Tomlinson and baritone Rod Gilfry to mezzo-soprano Alice Coote. The star here is the extraordinarily high-pitched soprano Audrey Luna, who played Ariel in Mr. Adès' earlier The Tempest. Mr. Adès conducts.

How's the production?
There will be a review on this blog soon after the opera opens, assuming we're allowed to leave the opera house. It is a shared production with Covent Garden and the Salzburg Festival.

Why should I see it?
It's a new opera and one by a major composer based on a great film. What more reason do you need?

When does it open?
The Exterminating Angel opens Oct. 26.

Where can I get tickets?
Tickets  are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza. Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Is there a Live in HD broadcast planned?
Yes, it's on Nov. 18. 

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.