Ashley: Aficionado

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Described as "incidences in the life and career of a person who has reason to believe himself to be an 'agent of the department,'" this opera (the fourth in the tetralogy known as Now Eleanor's Idea) features baritone Thomas Buckner as The Agent and Jacqueline Humbert, Sam Ashley, and Robert Ashley as his interrogators and debriefers in musical dialogues. This inspired new opera seems to be a grand metaphor of the interior life, constantly peopled by "observers" who question our actions and thoughts as parts of our selves lead a "double life" on the inside and outside. The opera is also a complex "psychological" spy story (in the manner of Graham Greene), replete with codes of various sorts, including some found in the Personals" section of local newspapers (in Part I, "Personal"). The expositions of the text may extend through vast stretches of time rather than being mere vehicles for a plot line; characters may move little or not at all, standing and declaring in the tradition of Bellini, accompanied by unseen electronic orchestras, with their voices mysteriously modified electronically. The instrumental music is in general designed to be supportive of the vocals, but there are some significant instrumental moments, such as the exceptionally beautiful call-and-response that occurs in Part 9, entitled "Viva's Boy."