The Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast presents ‘The Exterminator’ in Breckenridge |

The Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast presents ‘The Exterminator’ in Breckenridge

Elmer Koneman
Special to the Daily
Audrey Luna, who sings a high A in "The Exterminating Angel," a note so high it that has never been sung before in Met history.
Special to the Daily |

The Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast on Saturday at 11 a.m., at Colorado Mountain College, Breckenridge, will be the American premiere of contemporary British composer Thomas Adès’s “The Exterminating Angel” based on the 1962 film by Luis Buñuel. This production will be sung in English.

The film and opera story depict a group of bourgeois friends being trapped in the dining room of a mansion during a dinner party. Some mysterious force detains those assembled from leaving the room. This self-imposed confinement lasts through three nights and four days, when the dinner guests, initially engaged in conversations and seen sitting in chairs and scattered seats, spend the night sleeping on couches, and under scattered blankets on the floor.

In time their social behavior masks fall down when everyone becomes increasingly irrational in hostile and selfish dialogues, in pairs and in small groups. The guests begin to panic as one of them dies during the night, despite treatment provided by one of the members, a practicing physician. By the third day, as people become more irrational, two more take their own lives. Some of the guests believe that their sacrifice was needed to secure their liberation.

In the third act into the last day, the hostess, Leticia, somehow brings order back to those assembled, again achieving the harmony experienced during the opening act. This realization is captured in a closing aria by Leticia (sung by coloratura soprano Audrey Luna). Now liberated, the guests cross the threshold and are finally able to meet with the crowd outside.

The music has been described by New York Times reviewer Anthony Tommasini as “pulsing with searing power, frenetic breathlessness and an astringent harmonic language spiked with thick, piercing chords, though pensive, dreamy episodes provide welcome relief.”

In further reviews, various musical aspects are described. During the guests’ captivity, when their inability to leave the room seems more absurd than abject, waltz rhythms proliferate, variously in recall of classic Johann Strauss. In the heaviest, most doom-laden passages, the harmony gravitates toward Wagner. The young lovers, who commit suicide rather than stay at the party for eternity — are given courtly, limpid music of quasi-Baroque character. Adès’ thorny, modernist music, played with crackling precision and color by the orchestra, bristles with manic, almost madcap, energy.

Of interest, for one short orchestral interlude, composer Adès has eight of the orchestra’s violinists trade in their regular instruments for miniature 1/32-size violins. An unusually large battery of percussion instruments lines the Met’s pit. Also included is music from a keyboard organ-like instrument, the “ondes Martenot,” an instrument that includes a small drawer of controls on the left side of the keyboard by which musical dynamics, from silence to fortissimo, can be produced, including the introduction of woodwind sounds.

One reviewer wrote, “If you only will experience only one opera this year, attend ‘The Exterminating Angel.’” And in the Huffington Post: “A major cultural event — a spectacular American premier of one of the most anticipated openings of a new opera in years.”

Please bring a sack lunch and snacks (coffee and tea will be provided).

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