River of Women/Rio de Mujeres (2001)

Part II of the Music Theater Trilogy Aguas Ancestrales - Ancient Waters

Music Theater Collaborative
Opera Cultura and Mission Chamber Orchestra 

The Plot
1940’s: San Antonio, Texas. The plot centers around the desire of one woman to escape the rural life of the river, but is thwarted by both her family and her culture. In the end, the spirit of the river and La Llorona claim both her dreams and the life of her only daughter.

River of Women draws on Armienta’s perspective balancing the American culture he was born into and his Mexican ancestry. The work was inspired by the life of his grandmother (Paula Lopez) and incorporates the mythical character, La Llorona/The Weeping Woman, who is in search of the children she lost in the river. The work is part two of the trilogy, Aguas Ancestrales/Ancient Waters, whose central theme is the spiritual element of water and the women in his family. 


Out There - Rio De Mujeres

This player requires flash.

River of Women

This player requires flash.



Paula is washing clothes at the river with her daughter, Elisa. Both Paula and Elisa have recently moved into a small shack behind a large house owned by Paula's mother, Cayetana, and her mother?s second husband, Cipriano. With them at the river is Marta. Elisa tells Marta about her dream-like fascination with the river, which she calls "magical."

Marta tells her she must be a River Woman and begins to recount the story of the spirit woman La Llorona/the Weeping Woman. Marta soon leaves. As Paula and Elisa continue their work, Paula tells Elisa she has never liked the kind of life borne by women of the river and that perhaps one day, they will leave.

Cayetana, Paula's mother, comes down from the hill to see if the laundry is finished. She tells Paula that her suitor Don Blas has arrived. Though Paula is reluctant to see him, she leaves with Cayetana to meet him. Elisa is left to finish the laundry. Now alone, Elisa speaks to the river and confesses an ominous recurring dream in which a faceless woman appears and calls to her.

Meanwhile, Don Blas and Cipriano are in the living room of the house. Cipriano and Don Blas, who earn their living by ferrying people across the river, have learned that their employer is selling his boat. Cipriano discovers that Don Blas would be entitled to an inheritance if he were married and attempts to convince Don Blas that they should buy the boat together. Cipriano, however, doesn't have his half of the required capital. Cayetana and Paula enter. Cipriano suggests to his wife that they leave so that Paula and Blas can be alone to talk. They exit.

Paula tells Don Blas she has not yet decided if she will accept his proposal of marriage. Feeling disheartened, he prepares to leave, but Paula suggests that he stay. Don Blas mentions he saw a swan at the river, which reminded him of her. At first, the swan had fought against the river current but was soon able to free itself and fly. While Don Blas speaks, Paula envisions herself as the swan. Thinking it would impress her, he tells her he will catch it for her, clip its wings and keep it on the boat that he and Cipriano now plan to buy. When Paula reminds him of his promise to take her away from the river once they marry, Don Blas insists that he must buy the boat in order to provide for his new family. Paula becomes distant, and he decides to leave, promising to return the next day. As he leaves, Elisa enters.

Paula tells Elisa she has decided they must secretly leave tomorrow and asks Elisa to purchase two train tickets for the journey. Elisa tries to get her mother to change her mind, but Paula is resolved to leave. Paula goes to a cabinet, where she has hidden her money inside a flower pot, and gives Elisa money to buy the tickets. They leave. Cayetana, who has been hiding in the shadows, goes to the same cabinet and takes the rest of the money.


It is the next day. Paula is inside her small, dirtfloor shack. She is making final preparations to leave. Elisa enters with a pail of water, which she has brought to sprinkle down the dirt floor. Elisa does not wish to leave. Paula tries to explain to her that they will have a brighter future elsewhere. Elisa remains cold and removed. Paula decides to retrieve the rest of the money and instructs Elisa to wash up before they leave. As Paula enters the living room of the main house, Elisa hears the voice of the woman from her dreams coming from the river. She leaves the shack. Meanwhile, Paula searches for the flower pot, which is missing.

Cayetana enters and admits to having taken it. She tells Paula she has no other choice but to marry Don Blas. When Paula refuses, Cayetana reminds her that without any money, she has no other choice. The men enter and are jubilant. Cayetana has given them Paula?s money, telling them it was money from her great grandmother, which she recently found after cleaning a flowerpot. With the money, the men have purchased their employer?s boat. When Don Blas asks Paula about his marriage proposal, Paula realizes that her fate is sealed. She reluctantly consents to marry him, hoping that by making this sacrifice, Elisa will find opportunities unavailable to Paula. Meanwhile, Elisa has approached the river, where La Llorona awaits her. La Llorona was Marta. Paula goes to fetch her daughter to tell her the news. When she reaches the shack, she can not find her.

She looks out the window and sees Elisa just as Elisa reaches the arms of La Llorona Paula screams. La Llorona and Elisa embrace.

Production Details


1:20 minutes in duration

For information about work requirements ( characters, voice types, instrumentation, etc...) , please CLICK HERE