THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL
MET LIVE IN HD
People often are surprised that the operas that they love the best— those that have survived several centuries on stage—had the most negative critical reviews of their first performances.
So what are we to make of the reviews of a modern opera that has received a continuum of comments —- from “must see” (NYTimes) to “felt like I was being locked in the opera house to stay” (comment).
There is no quick test to know if this is a great gift to the future generations but for the here and now, Thomas Adès' The Exterminating Angel, is something to experience.
No one disagrees over the facts: It is surreal, complex, and stresses the highest range possible coming from a human voice. High emotional moments were matched with higher vocal ranges as delivered by Audrey Luna, in the role of Leticia (an opera diva in the opera), who reaches up to an A above high C.
No one gives a simple explanation to what it might all mean however— this story of elite who cannot leave their after-the opera- dinner party. They are not being held hostage by a terrorist as Bel Canto for instance but in some invisible wall that stuns them like a laser preventing their exit. The servants all knew something was up and had left early before these guests arrived home, with only one, a butler remaining.
Could this be so simple to say this is a political response to the Franco regime by the Spanish elite, that Luis Buñuel is targeting in his 1962 movie on which the opera is based. Or is it philosophical exploration of the exasperations in human experience.
Or is it just art of its time, of characters trapped in a traditional horror movies (the orchestration features the ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument used for the eerie sounds in horror movies ).
The casting involves 15 top notch singers, who are the guests, with a variety of interactions through the almost 3 hours that cover the fateful evening. There is no one aria as such but a continuous flow through the emotions of the guests throughout. There are also three sheep—Mary, Lucy and Ruby in their Met debut —and who are integral the story. Oh, yes there is a bear.
One does not leave this opera humming any melody, even though there is something very familiar about patches of music throughout, but in a strange way, not only do the opera singers get into feeling their character (as one said in the intermission interview) but at some point, one might feel one is at this dinner party too.
In short, I found that given all that was said about it and as odd as many moments were, I liked it!
BOTTOM LINE: For all that can be said about seeing something in person at the Met, yes, do that. But for The Exterminating Angel, this is one that seeing the Fathom Live in HD first in theaters will greatly enhance the experience before you get to see it on the great stage.
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