Old Man and The Sea



Libretto by Royce Vavrek, Direction by Karmina Šilec, Scenic Design by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons

“The Old Man and the Sea” is a new multi-lingual opera from composer Paola Prestini, librettist Royce Vavrek and director Karmina Šilec based on and further inspired by the novel by Ernest Hemingway. The work tells the story of an old fisherman who desperately wants one last great catch, and whose obsession leads him to dangerous maritime territory off the Cuban coast. We follow the man as he encounters man-of-wars, sharks, and a giant marlin that he keeps on his fishing line for two long days and nights, until he finally returns to Havana exhausted with nothing but the skeletal remains of the fish he hoped to be a symbol of his strength and virility. The opera interpolates additional stories based on oral accounts of elders who look back on their lives and livelihoods through the prism of untaught life-lessons that allowed them to self-actualize. The dual tracks of the Hemingway story and portraits of quotidian life combine to create a look at aging, legacy, and our relationship to oceans. The work is being created for a small principal cast of five older singers and one young child, a choir, Jeffrey Zeigler’s solo cello, and small instrumental ensemble with electronics and foley. Run time is 90 minutes.


This project requires the contributions of a number of oral histories that we will collect from elders who will speak to the effects of aging on their minds and bodies in relation to their life work. Speaking to a gardener, a sex worker, a singer, and contemporary fishermen, we will create portraitures that are woven into the fabric of Hemingway’s narrative. We would also like to consult with a Catholic theologian to consider the religious allusions embedded in “The Old Man and the Sea,” and to examine the opportunities for ritual, including elements of a requiem mass or the Stations of the Cross, in a multi-lingual approach, combining English, Spanish, and Lukumi.

Director Karmina Šilec will employ her artistic concept “Choregie”, which focuses on the process of creation and applies the ideology of musical composition to theatrical performance. In this approach, a meta composition is created by positioning different music materials into a bigger composition. The word choregie has roots in the Greek language where choregs were supposed to be patrons of art, and the idea of developing the Choregie concept draws largely from Greek tragedy, particularly the role of the choir in it.

With "Choregie - new music theatre" Karmina started to open up new spaces to multi-form music events, not by breaking down boundaries between disciplines, but putting them next to each other, to coexist.


We are all aging from the day we are born. Our egos, just as Santiago’s ego, are transcendent objects that don’t dwell in our consciousness and can only be viewed from a distance. Aging can contain the anxiety of loosing of dignity and identity. Older people often grow old feeling alienated, excluded, oppressed, and being treated as if they are dying. We wish to investigate this particular place in a person’s life, often filled with ageism, prejudice, stigmatization, discrimination, and oppression aimed at a particular person or group of people because of their years lived.













In this project we are interested not in how to avoid becoming old, but rather how to avoid becoming “the other”. Hemingway’s Santiago is a priest of time. Rather than waiting for death he fights against losing his will. For him, that failure would be the loss of manhood itself. Our project mediates on Santiago’s power of will which replaces the power of flesh; and on the wisdom, pride and humility which replace the arrogance of youth. This is the supreme victory of spiritual will.

"The Old Man and the Sea" seeks to understand the meaning of life, death, people and things in this context.

life is living dead is dying a fish is a fish a fisherman is fisherman

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