Robert Wilson - Paola Prestini

Two Oars

A new opera work by Robert Wilson and Paola Prestini under the working title Two Oars is based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Old Man and the Sea. During the workshop at Watermill from 2015 and 2016, a draft was made of the shape, structure and cast of the work. The opera will consist of 7 music parts and 8 spoken parts. All characters are related to the Old Man, reflecting different aspects of him. There will be a mezzo soprano and baritone, a lead cellist and four more singers for the principal roles. There will also be a chorus, placed behind the audience, which will slowly move towards the stage. The work will be multi-lingual with English and Spanish as main languages and the local dialect of the descendants of the African slaves on Cuba (Lucumí, a dialect of Yorùbá) as a third.
The Old Man and the Sea is the last major work of Ernest Hemingway earning him the Pulitzer Prize in 1952. The novel takes place in Cuba and tells the story of an old fisherman who has lost the respect of his fellow villagers after not having caught any fish for nearly three months. A boy that used to go fishing with him was forced to abandon him. One day, he goes out far from the shore wanting to catch a giant marlin. After a three-day-long struggle he kills the fish. However, before he can bring it home, the fish is eaten by sharks who the old man cannot defeat. He reaches the harbor with only the skeleton of the marlin left. But the other fishermen are so impressed by its size that he regains his dignity despite his defeat. In addition to visual references and inspirational images, a number of suggestions have been collected for the text of the 8 knee-plays including passages by Ezra Pound, a letter of Hemingway’s to Marlene Dietrich, a nautical glossary, baseball statistics of the 1950s, a quote from a Stephen Crane novel, as well as prayers like the Our Father or the Hail Mary in Lucumí.

R O B E R T W I L S O N , is an American experimental theatre director and playwright, hailed by the media as the most prominent world avant-garde theatre artist. Over the course of his wide-ranging career, he has also worked as a choreographer, painter, sculptor, video artist, and sound and lighting designer. Since the late 1960s, Robert Wilson’s productions have decisively shaped the look of theatre. Wilson’s close ties and collaborations with leading artists, writers, and musicians continue to fascinate audiences worldwide.

PAOLA PRESTINI has been named one of the top 30 musical innovators of 2016 and one of the top 100 composers in the world under 40. Her compositions have been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Barbican Centre, among others. She is the Creative and Executive Director of National Sawdust, a nonprofit New Yorkbased space for arts incubation and performance.

Music by Paola Prestini
Directed by Robert Wilson