Thomas Adès's third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is based closely upon Luis Buñuel's 1962 film El ángel exterminador, in which the hosts and guests at a high-society dinner party find themselves inexplicably unable to leave the dining room. Initial critical response to the opera too often focused on superficial similarities and discrepancies between the two works at the expense of attending to the specifically musical ways in which Adès presented the drama. This article explores the role that repetition plays in the opera, and in particular how repetitions serve both as a means of critiquing bourgeois sensibilities and as a representation of (loss of) will. I conclude by drawing on the work of Deleuze in order to situate the climax of the opera against the notion of the eternal return, highlighting how the music articulates the dramatic failure of the characters to escape.
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