Robert Ashley’s revival of eL/Aficionado

  • Roulette
  • October 21, 2021
    8:00 pm

October 21-23, 2021

Written in 1987 and last performed in 1995, Robert Ashley’s eL/Aficionado (72 minutes) is an opera scored for four voices and a pre-recorded electronic orchestra. It is the trial of a mind or an imagination, of “every person” coming in contact with something foreign — the unknown. Mezzo-soprano Kayleigh Butcher will sing the lead role of the Agent, a part originally written for baritone Thomas Buckner. The other vocalists are Bonnie Lander, Paul Pinto, and Brian McCorkle. Music direction and sound design are by Tom Hamilton, and lighting and stage design are by David Moodey.

Although the opera’s mysterious mood owes much to John LeCarré’s world of espionage, it is not a spy story. The four scenes of the narrative are progressively concerned with events of an otherworldly nature while delving into the Agent’s different life stages, from the present time to her earliest memories. Unique to the opera is a vocal technique, in which Ashley assigns a defining pitch to each character. Guided by a harmony or specific set of alternate pitches, the singers are asked to improvise around the pitch and invent vocal inflections that express the intent or meaning of the text. The result is a hyper-dense score propelled by lush live voices, at times tense and suspenseful, at other times deeply lyrical and moving.