The Royal Opera presents the UK premiere of Thomas Adès’ The Exterminating Angel, directed by Tom Cairns and conducted by Adès. Inspired by famed surrealist Luis Buñuel’s 1962 film El ángel exterminador, the plot centres on an exclusive dinner party after a night at the opera. Towards the end of the evening the guests 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…
The Exterminating Angel is the third opera by English composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adès, who returns to The Royal Opera for the work’s UK premiere, following its world premiere at the 2016 Salzburg Festival. Adès’ made is Royal Opera debut in 2004, conducting the world premiere of his second opera The Tempest, and has since returned to conduct The Rake’s Progress. His first opera Powder Her Face, The Tempest and his many symphonic and chamber works are regularly performed around the world.
Adès is reunited with British director Tom Cairns who has previously directed and designed the sets for The Tempest for The Royal Opera and La Voix humaine for ROH2. As director and librettist Cairns leads a creative team including set and costume designer Hildegard Bechtler, lighting designer Jon Clark, video designer Tal Yarden and choreographer Amir Hosseinpour.
Adès and Cairns, keep many of the characters from large cast in Buñuel’s film, making this a true ensemble opera: one in which society and its interrelations are put under the microscope.
Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter sings the role of Leonora. Previous roles for The Royal Opera include Leocadia Begbick (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier), Romeo (I Capuleti e i Montecchi), Sesto (La clemenza di Tito), Dorabella (Così fan tutte) and Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro). She has recently undertaken a US and European tour with string quartet Brooklyn Rider, coinciding with the 2016 release of their album So Many Things, and will sing Countess Geschwitz (Lulu) for Staastoper Hamburg.
English mezzo-soprano Christine Rice sings the role of Blanca. She made her Royal Opera debut in 1998 as Suzy (La rondine in concert) and since 2003 has sung at the Royal Opera House almost every Season, in roles including Lucretia (The Rape of Lucretia), Miranda (The Tempest), Ariadne (The Minotaur), Judit (Duke Bluebeard’s Castle), Siébel (Faust), Concepcion (L’Heure espagnole), Giulietta (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Carmen, Hansel, Maddalena (Rigoletto) and Jenny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny). Recent roles elsewhere include Carmen for Opernhaus Zurich and Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) for English National Opera.
British bass John Tomlinson sings the role of Doctor. Following his Royal Opera debut in 1977 as Fourth Jew (Salome), his many roles for the Company include Wotan, Hunding and Hagen (Der Ring des Nibelungen), Hans Sachs and Veit Pogner (Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg), King Marke (Tristan und Isolde) and Gurnemanz (Parsifal), and the role creations Green Knight (Gawain) and the title role of The Minotaur, both for Harrison Birtwistle. Other recent roles at The Royal Opera include Ivan Iakovlevitch, Clerk and Doctor (The Nose), Tirésias (Oedipe) and Varlaam (Boris Godunov).
British baritone Thomas Allen sings to role of Roc. Previous roles for The Royal Opera include, Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Don Giovanni, Papageno (Die Zauberflote), Figaro (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Belcore (L’elisir d’amore), Posa (Don Carlo), Ford (Falstaff), Wolfram von Eschinbach (Tannhäuser), Sixtus Beckmesser (Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg), Eugene Onegin, Pelléas, Schaunard and Marcello (La bohème), Forester (The Cunning Little Vixen), Balstrode (Peter Grimes), Billy Budd, Sweeney Todd, Prosdocimo (Il turco in Italia), Don Alfonso (Così fan tutte), Herr von Faninal (Der Rosenkavalier), Gianni Schicchi, Peter (Hansel and Gretel), the Music Master (Ariadne auf Naxos) and Marquis de la Force (Dialogues des Carmelites). Since 2003 he has directed for companies including Boston Lyric Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Pittsburgh Opera and Scottish Opera in productions including Le nozze di Figaro, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflote and Così fan tutte.
English countertenor Iestyn Davies sings the role of Francisco. Previous appearances for The Royal Opera include Angel 1/The Boy (Written on Skin), Creonte (Niobe, regina di Tebe), Spirit (Dido and Aeneas) and Britten’s Canticles. Recent engagements include David (Saul) for Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Handel and Haydn Society, Orlando for the English Concert and Ottone (L'incoronazione di Poppea) for the George Enescu Festival.
English soprano Sally Matthews sings the role of Silvia. She was a member of The Royal Opera’s Young Artists Programme 2001–03 and made her debut with the Company as Nannetta (Falstaff). She has since returned to sing Pamina (Die Zauberflote), Sifare (Mitridate, re di Ponto), Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), Anne Trulove (The Rake’s Progress) and Blanche de la Force (Dialogues des Carmélites). Recent roles elsewhere include Countess (Capriccio) for La Monnaie and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) for Dutch National Opera.
English soprano Sophie Bevan sings the role of Beatriz. Previous roles for The Royal Opera include Sophie von Faninal (Der Rosenkavalier), Antigone (Oedipe), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro) Ilia (Idomeneo), Pamina (Die Zauberflote) and Woodbird (Siegfried). Recent engagements include Michal (Saul) for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Pamina for Welsh National Opera and Leila (The Pearl Fishers) for English National Opera. Leila
Music Thomas Adès
Libretto Tom Cairns after Luis Buñuel
and Luis Alcoriza
Conductor Thomas Adès
Director Tom Cairns
Set and costume designer Hildegard Bechtler
Lighting designer Jon Clark
Video designer Tal Yarden
Choreographer Amir Hosseinpour
Leonora Anne Sofie von Otter
Blanca Christine Rice
Nobile Charles Workman
Lucia Amanda Echalaz
Raúl Frédéric Antoun
Doctor John Tomlinson
Roc Thomas Allen
Francisco Iestyn Davies
Eduardo Ed Lyon
Leticia Audrey Luna*
Silvia Sally Matthews
Beatriz Sophie Bevan
Lucas Hubert Francis
Enrique Thomas Atkins†
Señor Russell Sten Byriel*
Colonel David Adam Moore*
Julio Morgan Moody*
Pablo James Cleverton
Meni Elizabeth Atherton
Camila Anne Marie Gibbons
Padre Sanson Wyn Pencarreg
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
*Royal Opera debut
† Jette Parker Young Artist
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