An opera that is inspired by a movie – interesting concept!Originally I got interested in this opera because Anne Sofie von Otter was singing one of the roles and I didn’t get to see her in Rise and Fall of Mahoganny as she was ill the night I went. Only after I had booked my ticket already I decided to do some deeper research into the opera as the title is rather intriguing.
The world premiere happened last year in Salzburg and these are the first performances here in the UK so the opera is about as fresh of the press as it can be.
First a little about the opera and the idea behind it. The inspiration was the movie by Luis Bunuel and Luis Alcoriza ‘El Angel Exterminador’ from 1962. The Royal Opera House did put up a special event for the Students – a screening of the movie and a brief chat with one of the main characters. This was incredibly interesting and very helpful when it came to actually seeing the opera.
The Marques de Nobile invites some of his friends back to his house after a performance of Lucia di Lammermoor. For unexplainable reasons all the staff of the house find excuses to leave and only Julio, the Butler remains. Once the dinner has been served the guests retire into the sitting room and the evening goes on and no one is able to leave the room. One after another the guests settle down for the night. Julio was clearing up the dining room and is then asked to serve breakfast but no deliveries were made that morning. He then enters the sitting room as well with coffee and finds himself trapped with the rest of the group. Eventually after an unknown number of days they find a way to leave the room.
The movie itself does not have any music in it at all. David Adam Moore rightly advised us before the start of the movie: ‘Get yourself a drink because you will feel like a drunk watching this movie either way’. It is certainly a very surreal movie with several quite crazy moments.
When it came to the opera performance I was as prepared as I would ever be for a contemporary opera. It was a privilege to have the composer conduct his own opera – not something that you can witness that often. I hadn’t heard anything by Ades before that night and I didn’t quite know what to expect. Various people have told me that they really didn’t like any of his music. However, I decided to not to be influenced by that and form my own opinion. This certainly paid off. It’s only been over the last two years or so that I have decided to give contemporary classical music a go. Ades music did not disappoint. I was positively impressed – some beautiful melodies shone through every now and then, even though there were plenty of surreal moments sneaking in. One interesting addition to the orchestra pit was the Ondes Martenot. Its unusual sound definitely added to the creepy atmosphere. Whilst not all pieces are necessarily something one listens to more than once. This particular opera falls into that category – partially due to the crazy plot and the unusual music.
The cast were pretty spectacular. It is rare to have such a host of lead characters all on stage for the entire duration of the opera. I did feel a little sorry fo Audrey Luna, who sung Leticia Maynar, the opera singer. Her role was incredibly challenging for her voice – technically brilliant – even though it might not always have been pleasant for the ear. John Tomlinson, playing Doctor Carlos Conde, was a true revelation – not only had he a stage presence but also a beautifully warm voice. Anne Sofie von Otter, singing Leonora Palma, was also superb – her character was a rather crazy woman having visions and she portrayed her very well! Without mentioning all the rest of the cast it is safe to say though that the level of singing and performing was top notch – as to be expected from the Royal Opera House.
Almost all the singers were already performing last year at the Festspiele in Salzburg. Hence, they worked on the piece from the very beginning and this really showed that they were very much in sync with each other and whilst the topic, as mentioned before, was very surreal, the tension was kept on stage and it never got boring for me personally.
Even though it was an unusal one, it certainly was an enjoyable evening. I am very glad I had the chance to see this lovely opera. Maybe I will go and see it again in about 60 years time – maybe the whole sense behind it will become clearer then…