The Exterminating Angel / Meeting Cynthia Millar

Attending the final performance of The Exterminating Angel at the Royal Opera House on May 8th was my first experience of opera, and it was certainly an interesting one.

As I walked to my seat, I could see live sheep milling about on the stage. Once the opera started, and once I got past the initial culture-shock of having every word articulated through song, the whole format seemed to work very well. The staging of the show was very minimal and, at times, wonderfully surreal and abstract.

I had, with the help of her management, arranged a meeting with Cynthia Millar, the ondiste for the show. She was, essentially, another character in the opera; supplying the other-worldly voice of the mysterious force that keeps the guests from leaving the house. We met very briefly after the show, as she was packing down her instrument, a Mk. 1 Ondea. Thomas Ad├Ęs had written specifically for Cynthia and the Ondea, after seeing her perform with the instrument previously.

Compared to a Mk. 7 ondes Martenot, which Cynthia often uses, the Ondea has an extended physical range. The score saw her playing at the extreme ends of the instrument's range an awful lot. I was also very glad to hang around the Ondea and talk to some interested folk in the interval, there were plenty of people with plenty of questions that I was more than happy to answer.