It is the late 1960s: Buñuel’s Exterminating Angel is on at the cinema, and I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Half a century on, I am drawn from Norwich, like a lone iron filing to a far-off magnet, to the Royal Opera House in London on the 3rd May to see the new opera ‘The Exterminating Angel’ by Thomas Adès (or Hades in certain imaginations), with a libretto by Tom Cairns drawn from the script Luis Buñuel wrote for the film.
I am preparing some treasure-able words on a comparison between the opera and the film for my next blog piece. Suffice it to write now a Trip-Advisorish comment on going to the ROH in Covent Garden.
Oh, splendiferous temple to grand opera and high art. You cannot enter the building without a palpable sense of entering a sanctum of civilisation at its most civilised. Its elegant luxury, and the emanations of power, financial and cultural, that it exudes make me gasp in admiration.
But then, what is this? We paid £72 for our two seats, admittedly not at all a bad price by London standards for a theatre seat, but we were seated on the Left Balcony, which means that by the design of the building – extraordinary when it was first built and even more extraordinary now – you only see two thirds of the stage. We’ve encountered this problem before but never until now have we been so short-changed. The stage design is brilliant in every way, except that a lot happens at the side of the stage and is therefore out of sight to spectators in the left-side balcony. To rub it in, the ROH has ditzy little wall lights all way round which no doubt were le dernier cri when it was built but when you lean over the balcony to see better (thus blocking the view of the person behind you) these pesky objects get in the way. Banish them, I say. Replace them with flat lights from John Lewis.
The photo was taken before the performance began when the sheep that feature in the opera (yes, sheep) were paraded on stage. You can see what I mean about the lights.
The real story however is the opera, which is a drama about a group of wealthy socialites at a dinner party held after an evening at the opera (‘Lucia di Lammermoor’) that all goes wrong, the dinner party from Hades you might say. When it finished and we were seeking to leave, I had a curious feeling: will we in fact be able to? But that is for the next post . . . coming soon, I hope.