Thomas Adès is one of the most important composers in contemporary music, and solidifies that position with his third opera The Exterminating Angel. His two previous operas, Powder Her Face (1995) and The Tempest (2004), are acclaimed as contemporary classics, alongside his many symphonic and chamber works, which are regularly performed around the world. The Exterminating Angel is inspired by the 1962 film El ángel exterminador by the famed surrealist Luis Buñuel, and received its world premiere at the 2016 Salzburg Festival.
Buñuel’s film, a parable on the ‘bourgeois condition’, sees a collection of society’s grandees trapped in a room; in no time at all their veneer of sophistication cracks. The scenario follows on from the enclosed settings of Adès’s two previous operas; he explains how ‘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’. Adès and librettist Tom Cairns, who also directs the premiere, keep many of the characters from Buñuel’s large cast, making this a true ensemble opera: one in which society and its interrelations are put under the microscope.