The Old Man and the Sea is an opera by Paola Prestini, Royce Vavrek and Karmina Šilec that presents a dual track of storytelling by combining the original short story with portraits of Hemingway's life. The cast brings to life the seminal characters Santiago and Manolin, and amplifies the tale by bringing in the Virgen del Cobre, a goddess in Santería, the Afro-Caribbean faith, who was found floating on a wooden board off the coast of eastern Cuba in 1628, and a mixed chorus who help mix cocktails and bear witnesses to the storytelling onstage. Themes of baseball, pop culture, ecology, religion, and economy help paint a conflict between progress and tradition, craft passion and exploitation, ultimately shedding contemporary perspectives on this timeless tale. The opera is written for percussion, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, and is narrated by Hemingway himself, and the bar owner, La Mar. The surreal tale unfurls amidst the making and drinking of cocktails.
Old Man and the Sea is a story I've wanted to tell my whole life. Water has always played a role in my life-I've explored its power often, how it nurtures, heals, and separates. My father is an amateur yet devoted fisherman. In our unspoken and yet unmined relationship, I've wanted to understand his choices, his inner life, which I believe he has only told the sea. In Santiago, I see the characters from my life on the Mexican border; beings who unfairly weather the toughest of economic realities and who live with the cadence of nature and the elements in the purest of ways, in desert terrains as vast and empty as any ocean. These conversations at sea are elemental, and offer a glimpse into humanity in its purest form.