I wasn't familiar with Thomas Adès's opera The Exterminating Angel, based on Luis Bunuel's film of the same name. Now I am, thanks to a live broadcast in our local cinema of a representation at the Met. Let's just say it was... educational.
I have no idea whether this is a good work or not. I know nothing about contemporary opera, save for the fact that it doesn't appeal to me much. But sometimes the quality of a work of art becomes a secondary consideration. In fact, this was three hours of wondering whether the entire thing was an elaborate joke, and if so, whether it would be time to get offended at some point.
Bunuel's film was (like many films of his) a satire of the bourgeoisie, who cannot lift a finger without the help of their servants and end up dying of hunger in their own dining room. And that's how you find yourself in a cinema with the finest specimens of the bourgeoisie of Aix, lawyers, doctors and the like, drinking champagne during the intermission and making little noises of appreciation while watching performers make fun of the very class they are part of. What was this pretending to be? The elite making fun of themselves while carrying on exactly like before, with their champagne and exclusive evenings? Or a sophisticated joke at the expense of what's left of communism today? During the intermission, an ecstatic journalist interviewed the author while stage hands carried accessories around, which made the whole performance all the more ironic; I don't know how much stage hands get paid at the Met, but regardless, I'm not sure how you can pretend to make a committed point about the bourgeoisie when you're parading in front of the camera while other people carry things around right behind you. And here was everybody fawning over the cleverness of the writing and direction, as if there was anything about the representation that wasn't laughably cynical.
I'm not offended because someone disrespected Bunuel's ideals. Tempting as it's always been, I've never embraced communist ideals for good. But if there's one thing I'd embrace even less willingly, it's the idea that we need a bourgeois elite gathering in operas, drinking champagne and pretending they've all deserved their high status and they have every right to rule our world. Nobody's interested in watching those people pretend to be self-aware and socially conscious, if we're going to keep sacrificing our well-being, our privacy, our atmosphere, what is left of our biodiversity and our sleep to their wealth.