"The Old Man and the Sea" opera's second performance ever was on Saturday at Memorial Hall, following its world premiere at Arizona State University in November.
The opera is the first time that Ernest Hemingway's estate has allowed anyone to make a musical interpretation of his novel “The Old Man and the Sea.” The 1952 novella follows Santiago, an elderly fisherman in Cuba and his journey to catch and bring home a large marlin.
The opera was created by composer Paola Prestini, librettist Royce Vavrek and director Karmina Šilec. Beth Morrison Projects, which works to create new opera and music theatre, produced and worked on its development.
Senior associate producer Julia Mendes said that the production involves hundreds of costumes and props. The process of staging a new show allowed for ongoing development and spontaneity, unlike established operas where the material is fixed.
Šilec said that the show will be based on Hemingway’s original story, but not in a classic operatic way.
“We were trying to find a way to extract certain interesting elements from the novel itself, and maybe give them even more space than Hemingway gave at the time,” she said.
The opera is set in Cuba, and is structured as a dual narrative, intertwining the plots of the novel with Hemingway’s own experiences as he was writing it.
Šilec said that the opera adopts a wide range of elements and themes, particularly religious allusion, ecology and colonialism — using sports references to symbolize Cuba’s resistance and revolution against Spanish colonial rule. It also highlights the dramatic shift in fishing practices from traditional to industrial methods.
“The story is actually the story of every man," Šilec said. "So it's not difficult to somehow find certain elements which we can identify with, especially with the passion for being alive for life itself."