Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of The Exterminating Angel. It was last on stage 24 April—8 May 2017 as part of the Spring 2016/17 season.
Guests are invited to an exclusive dinner after a night at the opera. Towards the end of the evening they find they are unable to leave. The door is open – but no one can get out, and no one can get in.
The elegant party quickly dissolves into anarchy. One guest dies. Two others kill themselves in a suicide pact. Finally, the dishevelled survivors discover that by re-enacting earlier events they can escape. There is celebration and relief – but it is short-lived, as soon they realize they are trapped again…
Based on the screenplay by Luis Buñuel and Luis Alcoriza.
Thomas Adès is one of the most important composers in contemporary music, and solidifies that position with his third opera The Exterminating Angel. His two previous operas, Powder Her Face (1995) and The Tempest (2004), are acclaimed as contemporary classics, alongside his many symphonic and chamber works, which are regularly performed around the world. The Exterminating Angel is inspired by the 1962 film El ángel exterminador by the famed surrealist Luis Buñuel. It received its world premiere at the 2016 Salzburg Festival and in 2017 was named Premiere of the Year at the International Opera Awards.
Buñuel’s film, a parable on the ‘bourgeois condition’, sees a collection of society’s grandees trapped in a room; in no time at all their veneer of sophistication cracks. The scenario follows on from the enclosed settings of Adès’s two previous operas; he explains how ‘It’s territory that I like very much, because it looks as though the people are in a room, but it’s not really about the room; they’re actually trapped in their own heads’. Adès and librettist Tom Cairns, who also directs the premiere, keep many of the characters from Buñuel’s large cast, making this a true ensemble opera: one in which society and its interrelations are put under the microscope.
News and features
25 May 2017
The ROH has been home to major opera premieres dating all the way back to our first resident composer Handel – as material from ROH Collections shows.
2 May 2017
The composer reveals what drew him to Buñuel's Surrealist satire, and how he set about creating his acclaimed operatic adaptation.
What does it all mean? Searching for answers to Thomas Adès's brain-scrambling The Exterminating Angel27 April 2017
The surreal film by Luis Buñuel that inspired Adès' third opera offers some intriguing clues.
26 April 2017
A flock of sheep, a bear, a disembodied hand, set in an inescapable single room: how do you stage Thomas Adès’s sensational new opera?
25 April 2017
Audience responses to the UK premiere of Adès's opera, inspired by Luis Buñuel’s surrealist film.
21 April 2017
The otherworldly instrument that paved the way for the synthesizer explosion has seduced everyone from Messiaen to Radiohead.