Now Eleanor’s Idea (1993) opera for three solo and four ensemble voices, prerecorded orchestra and electronics
Robert Ashley's Now Eleanor’s Idea is a quartet of short operas based on the notion of a sequence of events seen from four, different points of view. At the same time, each opera is an allegory, like Bunyan’s Pilgrim's Progress, for an individual’s self-realization within the context of a major religion found in the United States. Improvement takes its imagery and plot from Judaism, Foreign Experiences from Pentecostal Evangelism, eL/Aficionado from Corporate Mysticism, and Now Eleanor's Idea from (Spanish) Catholicism.
The inspiration for these works came specifically from four sources: the work of the historian, Frances A. Yates (1900–1983), whose specialty of interests included the influence of Kabbalistic mysticism on the birth of modernism and scientific philosophy in Italy in the sixteenth century (as a result of the expulsion of Jews from Spain during the Inquisition); the writings of Carlos Castaneda (and the arguments about him as a writer and about the intentions of his work); Low Rider Magazine, the fan-cult magazine of the Low Rider movement in the Southwestern United States; and finally, corporate vocabulary, what it sounds like and how it is used in popular publications, like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or Fortune Magazine.
While working at The Bank, the title character, Now Eleanor, has a sort of “religious experience” that fills her with an “approach of the end of the world feeling.” This feeling compels her to leave her job in the Midwest, move to New Mexico, and become a newscaster to try to discover the point where the religions of America—Judaism, Protestantism, Business and Catholicism—merge. But there is more in store for her than she realizes . . .