May 28, 2018

The Exterminating Angel: Your chance at seeing the grotesque modern masterpiece


Even as the UK is brimming with wonderful young composers, I think few would dispute that Tom Adès may be the most extravagantly gifted of them all,said Sir Simon Rattle, one of the most prominent conductors in the United Kingdom.


Thomas Adès was born in London in 1971 to Dawn Adès and Timothy Adès. It seems that the arts are in his blood; his mother is a renowned art historian, while his father is a poet. This young prodigy has won prizes that composers achieve when they're in their seventies.


He got a strong start to his musical career as he learnt composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. When attending King's College in Cambridge University, he achieved a double first-class in his Honours program. During his 4-year stay there, he also wrote Chamber Symphony, his debut orchestra.



In 1997, Thomas Adès premiered Asyla, the first of his many major works. It debuted in the Birmingham Symphony Hall, and it was critically well-received, leading Adès to win the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, making him the youngest-ever recipient of the award.


Some of his other significant orchestral works includeAmerica: A ProphecyConcentric PathsTevotIn Seven DaysandPolaris, which was co-commissioned by the New World Symphony. Polaris premiered in Miami Beach in 2011 to raving reviews. Georgia Rowe of the San Francisco Classical Voice called Polaris "a major triumph" and said, "Despite its compact running time, the score, subtitled 'Voyage for Orchestra,' conjures an unmistakable sense of vastness". This was just one of several publications praising Adès' work.



Adès had his opera debut in 1995 with his workPowder Her Face (Philip Hensher wrote the libretto). The opera was based on the life of Margaret Campbell, the Duchess of Argyll. It covered the sex scandal that that Duchess had been involved in the 1960s in the United Kingdom.


Adès himself described Powder Her Faceas an opera about a woman who becomes trapped in the 'world of perfume and fantasy and memory'. This sense of entrapment plays a heavy role in two other operas of his, The Tempest(2003) and the three-act play, The Exterminating Angel(2015), based on Luis Buñuel’s surrealist film of the same name.


The Exterminating Angel



Premiering in the 2016 Salzburg Festival, the New York Times praised Adès' interpretation of Buñuel’s film as “inventive and audacious". The Exterminating Angelis about a high-class dinner party in which the guests can't escape, without much of an explanation as to why. Over the course of events, all of the guests descend into absolute madness. This unique tale has a mix of darkness and humour, fantasy and reality, intertwined closely together. The macabre tone might be off-putting to some, but it truly adds to the beauty of the masterpiece in both formats – film and opera.


The original movie by Buñuel captures political and eccentric humour along with a dark twist and tone. Tom Cairns, who wrote the libretto for the opera and directed the production along with Adès, was praised for creating something very new and different, with many calling it among the most exciting new works of the year.


Perhaps one of the reasons why The Exterminating Angel is considered such an achievement and victory for Adès is the fact that the movie really doesn't strike one as being easily translatable into opera! It takes a special kind of mind to identify this movie for adaptation, and a special talent to achieve this feat.


However, it should be noted that it isn't only Adès responsible for making this opera successful. The ensemble cast is nothing short of phenomenal, including stars like Audrey Luna, Amanda Echalaz, Joseph Kaiser, Sir John Tomlinson, Alice Coote, Iestyn Davis and Christian Van Horn, among others. 


Adès was impressed by Buñuel’s film when he was a teenager, he said. The film's absurdities and multilayered nature, with a mix of fantasy and horror, inspired him to make it into an opera. He said, “All of this feeds into music very naturally for me… it feels extremely modern.”



You have a chance to see this magnificent opera right here in Hong Kong. Here's how!


Thomas Adès performed The Exterminating Opera at the New York Metropolitan Opera in October – November 2017. You can watch the maestro, conduct this opera as a re-broadcast in High Definition with Dolby sound, as if you were sitting in the Metropolitan Opera House!  


Venue: The Cowshed Theatre – Bethanie, 

139 Pok Fu Lam Road, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong

Date: Saturday, 16 June 2018

Time: 5pm to 9pm

Mozaic Members Tickets: HKD $700 

Non-Member Tickets:  HKD $ 880

Get the Tickets


Cost of ticket includes entrance to the Cowshed theatre, a welcome glass of bubbly, warm buffet dinner with wine, juice water and dessert.


Seeing this opera on the big screen, paired with the best in sound quality, will enhance your experience beyond that of a simple screening to the equivalent of a live concert. Don’t miss the chance to attend a concert by one of the finest young conductors of the modern era!


#mozaic #ThomasAdes #TheExterminating #Opera

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