Women At Sea



Once upon an ocean, the women gathered.  They rowed their boats until they were alone with their stories.  The world had begun to chisel away at pillars of culture: censorship gave way to book burnings and digital destruction – culture eliminated as unneeded distraction.  Believing their stories to be invaluable, the women have woven their fables, anecdotes, memories and scripture into their fishing nets for safekeeping.  They wait for the next generation to find them, and bide their time in conversation worried about the erasure of human experience and imagination.

An original opera created by composer Paola Prestini, librettist Royce Vavrek and director Karmina Šilec, “Women at Sea” is inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”, and seeks to create a new fable about the desire to leave a legacy and the resilience of the human spirit and body.

Karmina Šilec

“The sea swallows and takes away with it the stories that come to its shores. It takes them from the shores and swallows them into the deep waters. The stories lie there on the rocky bottom, waiting for the winter waves which might wash them to the shore of an island or splash them over the edge of a boat. What happens to the stories as they descend to the bottom while gliding through underwater density, returning to one of the primordial material shelters? Do stories become immortal, reinforced, or endangered? Does water now become their homeland, filling their sky with fish? Do they fall into a lake like a stone?” 

The nameless seas know all our secrets.  “Women at Sea '' addresses the elemental substance of the sea as it plays through our lives, our stories, our reveries, our fluid imagination – linking poetic imagery and dreams. The material imagination of the sea allows us to de-objectify objects and deform form enabling us to dream and perceive the flow of the soul in the world. Water calls to see the depth and to see beyond. Her imagery impels us to seek a profound level of experience – depth feels like watery depth. The sea is a transitory element, its fluidity and pliability helps us understand the psychology of the unconscious. 

Impact Frame and Process:

We plan to  collaborate with the communities in the homes of our commissioners and our own respective communities (NYC and Croatia) to build a social impact frame around the work. Research, and a storycorps approach to documenting and creating portraits of aging will result in a profound contribution to the libretto, music, theatricality and soundscape of our work. The quotidien, aging, the environment, loneliness, and legacy are some of the themes we are working on.


There is no great music without silence. Water lives like a great established silence. The project is as an "indeterminate" work, a piece of imaginative conceptual art presented as an evocative musical meta composition. It is a kind of melancholy fantasy, conceived as a project that turns sensation, experience, lost moments in time, the oceanic murkiness, the uncanny power of stories, terror and nobility, fear and bravery, faith and oblivion into a ghostly tapestry.

What happens to stories as they slide through underwater density? The Women at Sea captures the lost moments in time, the intimate feelings/sounds of the final seconds of our protagonists, the courage,  horror, oblivion, nobleness, fear, faith, secret powers … and bestows the sound with the power of immortal storytelling.

Image credit Dana Jaye Cadman

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