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The Exterminating Angel

The Royal Opera

For his award-winning opera acclaimed British composer Thomas Adès adapts Luis Buñuel’s surrealist satire.

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.

The Story

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.

Background

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.

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