Richard and I saw *The Exterminating Angel* on 11/10/17, a new opera by Thomas Adès having its American premiere at the Met. It’s based on the 1962 film by Luis Buñuel. I’d seen the film a couple of times and was very intrigued to see how it would work as an opera.
The story is about a group of aristocrats who go to a dinner party at the home of one of the couples after a performance at the opera. The dinner ends, they retire to the drawing room, and after a few hours they inexplicably find themselves unable to leave the room. Days go by and still they’re unable to leave, held in that room by some supernatural force. Adès said in an interview that he hoped that the music would not give an answer to the mystery, but help create the atmosphere of estrangement and malaise.
We had seen Adès’s two previous operas - - we loved *Powder Her Face* and really didn’t like *The Tempest.* So we were a little skeptical about this new one, but had to see it, of course. It’s a grand and ambitious work, with moments of transcendent beauty and searing drama, but not consistently interesting, not entirely successful. I think I just described half the operas in the repertoire.
Adès also conducted, and did a beautiful job, the performance was secure and the orchestra wrung every drop of juice out of the score. He was helped by the fact that about two thirds of the large cast had also done the previous productions in Salzburg and London. The librettist, Tom Cairns, also directed, and did a stellar job of creating an inventive staging in what’s basically a one-room show.
The New York Times had an article about how soprano Audrey Luna was singing a note so high, it’s believed to have never been heard at the Met, an A above high C. I’m not surprised, she’s made her reputation singing notes so high that only dogs can hear her - - in her first minute onstage in *The Tempest,* she sang 17 high Es. Kathy Otterson asked (via Facebook) if the super high A was really all that, and I’m afraid I didn’t really notice. She seems to always be singing up in the stratosphere, that one note didn’t really stand apart.
The high point (as opposed to the high note) of the score was the aria for mezzo Alice Coote, scored for voice and guitar. Rich, sonorous, confident, beautiful. I’d like to hear more music like this from Adès.