"…one of the finest operas of the century so far…" The New York Times (Joshua Barone)

Calixto Bieito’s new production of Thomas Adès’ The Exterminating Angel at the Opéra national de Paris has been celebrated by the press, following its debut on 28 February, conducted by the composer. The 2016 opera, with a libretto by Tom Cairns in collaboration with the composer, adapts Luis Buñuel and Luis Alcoriza’s 1962 surrealist masterpiece. The final three performances were conducted by Robert Houssart.

How extraordinary, then, that The Exterminating Angel has not only been revived, but has also received something even rarer in opera: a new production, by Bieito, at the Opéra …And, revised by Adès, with the composer in the pit, it sounds better than ever…one of the finest operas of the century so far…It represents opera at its most fundamental, an elevated expression of humanity on the edge. There is sex, violence and desperation. While the meaning can’t easily be explained, crucially for opera, the plot can be described in a single sentence: People enter a room, then lose the will to leave it.


The highlight remains Adès’s score, which freely flows from grotesquerie to lyricism to militaristic might and more. His diegetic sound nods to without embodying older styles, and his interludes behave as through they were trying to stare down both hell and the cosmos…The ondes Martenot, which cuts through the orchestra and voices, lends the opera the character of an old sci-fi horror soundtrack.

The New York Times (Joshua Barone) 15 March 2024


Masterful and terrifying…an essential figure in contemporary music…There are nervous recitative, more consonant arias with nostalgic contours, love duets, mini-arias…the stratospheric writing for the opera singer Leticia competes with the sinuous siren song of the ondes Martenot, the instrumental voice of the exterminating angel…The score layers panicked fanfares, solo baroque piano, flamenco guitar, hints of Viennese waltzes, mariachi brass, the massed drums of Calanda…The Exterminating Angel climaxes with a high point of terrifying horror – the lure of a ritual sacrifice – before the final trap of the Libera me, the redemptive psalm which in fact ensnares those who thought themselves saved. Like Mozart mischievously quoting from Don Giovanni in Le nozze di Figaro, Adès’ characters demand an encore…from Adès. The public will surely follow suit.


Le Monde (Marie-Aude Roux) 29 February 2024

Adès causes a sensation…A show that will be long remembered: thanks to the delirious staging of Bieito, thanks to a flamboyant and possessed cast of singers, and thanks to the musical direction of the composer, who guides the forces of the Opéra with an iron fist through the twists and turns of a brilliant score.


We have rarely seen, at the Opéra, shows of such physical power, reeking of decay and neurosis, leaving neither performers nor audience a moment's respite…It's awful, stupid and nasty, but sublimated by a masterful production, which does not hesitate to use all the resources of the stage to create a spectacular finale, in sync with the extravagant Libera me that intones until the chorus and all the protagonists are enchanted.

To embody this gang of ruffians, we needed a cast to match and, again, it's a hit…all excel in the devilishly virtuoso ensembles concocted by Adès, his harshly expressionistic lines, whose ariosos and elegiac duets bring a few breaths of oxygen into the stale atmosphere.

At the podium, the miracle-working composer guides the orchestra, choir and soloists with an iron fist through the dizzying twists and turns of his score. Not since 1979 (the first production of Lulu ) and 1983 (the premiere of of Saint Francis of Assisi ) has the Opéra experienced such an earthquake – no joke.

Diapason (Emmanuel Dupuy) 1 March 2024


Adès immerses the viewer in this mysterious fable of bourgeois society, invited to a dinner after the opera, suddenly unable to leave…In this enclosed space, all the doors of the unconscious paradoxically open, identities are turned upside down, relationships and values ​​inverted…A singer, a conductor, a doctor, a soldier...12 characters decomposed and remade in real time for two intense hours until a searching, ambiguous ending.

Adès reflects the repetitions in his musical matrix…the opening scene is replayed directly at the finale, with meaningful variations…more structure is provided by poetic interludes in the story: the mother’s lullaby for her child, the pianist’s song for an inaccessible elsewhere, the young lovers’ tender duets…

From the bells which tolls before the curtain rises, the guitar and other Spanish souvenirs, the drums, and the waltz in the first act, Adès offers a musical universe of impressive richness, dramatically effective but  also one which does give up all of its secrets at first hearing - as if we must come back to admire more closely the cogs of this infernal machine…Adès himself brings the score to life, attentive to its transitions and balance, and constructing its musical discourse with obvious relish.

Ôlyrix 1 March 2024


Adès unleashes a polyphonic volcano, spitting its corrosive lava without stopping, and making the Strauss of Elektra pale by comparison. It is undoubtedly the dizzying brilliance of its score and the direction of a superb cast by Calixto Bieito which explain the success of this production…the orchestral writing, fractious and frenetic, evokes by turns Berg’s Lulu, Die Fledermaus, Ravel’s La Valse, flamenco guitar, early music, neoclassical Stravinsky, Britten and Messiaen…The Exterminating Angel confirms Adès as a sure-fire winner in the world of opera.

Libération (Éric Daha) 11 March 2024


With riches in abundance, the volcanic score testifies to the incandescent skill in orchestration of Adès, magnified by his conducting. The diversity of textures and registers illustrates all the technical and musical prowess of the human voice. Both voices and instruments, from the lowest to the highest registers, including insidious waves from the ondes Martenot, explore every colour in sound, igniting music which flies into the poetic ether.

La Croix (Emmanuelle Giuliani) 4 March 2024