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The Exterminating Angel

 28 July 2016 at 7pm 

The Exterminating Angel

Salzburger Festspiele
various, Salzburg, Austria
ttel.: +43-662-8045-500

With its fusion of realistic, surreal and religious elements, El ángel exterminador constitutes a summa of Buñuel’s oeuvre prior to his late French works. Thomas Adès has chosen the film as the basis for his third opera: ‘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.’ The enclosed, self-contained situation links the subject with both of Adès’s earlier works for the stage: with the hotel room of the Duchess of Argyll in his chamber opera Powder Her Face (1995), described in a recent article in the Observer as already having the status of a modern classic, and with Prospero’s island in the Shakespeare-based opera The Tempest, which since its first performance in London in 2004 has also impressed audiences at the Met, the Vienna State Opera and other houses, further cementing Adès’s reputation as one of today’s most exciting (opera) composers. The librettist of The Exterminating Angel, Tom Cairns, who is also directing the premiere, has reduced the twenty-one main characters of Buñuel’s film to fifteen by merging a number of figures, still an astonishing number of protagonists, making The Exterminating Angel a true ensemble opera. In musical terms this means that it will deal less with the psychology of the individual figures than express the often abrupt changes in emotional temperature of the communication and human relationships, realizing individual and collective moods. ‘Particularly in opera, you have to deal with the creation of atmos-phere, of emotional atmosphere’, emphasizes Adès; however, this atmosphere should not have the character of decorative accompaniment but arise directly from the musical fabric. The fact that the situations in The Exterminating Angel constantly tip over into the absurd and surreal makes the story all the more attractive for Adès: the musicologist Richard Taruskin had already called him ‘a surrealist composer’ in 1999, and Tom Service, a writer on music intimately familiar with Adès’s works, admires how the composer casts even very familiar musical ingredients – major and minor chords, say, or sequences of simple intervals – in a wholly new light, making them sound ‘rich and strange’.


July 28, 2016 19:00:00
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Thomas Ades : The Exterminating Angel

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