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Baker's Dozen

The Count Of 13: Ramsey Campbell's Weird Selection
Sean Kitching , May 6th, 2020 09:26

In a Baker's Dozen diversion, writer Ramsey Campbell guides Sean Kitching through 13 favourite pieces of weird culture, from film to opera and literature, via David Lynch, Arthur Machen and more


Thomas Adés - The Exterminating Angel

I only know Buñuel’s film of this, not the opera. 

Oh yes, and that’s where it comes from. One of my absolute favourite directors and I could easily have chosen something of his, as one of my 13. The Exterminating Angel is related to The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie. In this case, it’s about a dinner party, where at the end somehow nobody can quite leave the room and the more they try, the more they realise it’s an impossibility. Now, things have already been happening on a surreal level before we get to this point. A very disconcerting moment where a small scene is repeated verbatim. The first time I saw the film, I thought, did I see that? That establishes the whole principle of repetition that the film is founded upon. Thomas Adès comes along and writes the opera [2016]. Adès is very possibly my favourite contemporary composer. It was his third opera. The Exterminating Angel, is about the dinner party where people can’t leave and indeed he does do his own version of the reiterated scene early on, and it’s a genuinely disturbing opera, both musically and dramatically but there’s also rather a splendid musical joke involved. One of his repertory company is a lady called Audrey Luna, who has become famous as having the highest register of any singer now working. He has actually written in this particular opera, the highest note yet sung. Part of the gag is, that in a sense the hindrance that prevents everybody from leaving, in the opera, is whether she’s going to get to sing her aria or not.