'Breaking the Waves' by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek

'Breaking the Waves' by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek
Dominic M. Mercier, courtesy of Opera Philadelphia

What price love and devotion?

September 22 Opera Philadelphia presents the world premiere of Breaking the Waves, a new opera by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek, based on Lars von Trier's 1996 Academy Award-nominated film.

Set in the Scottish Highlands in the 1970s, Breaking the Waves is the story of Bess McNeill, a deeply devout Protestant young woman with an equally passionate love for her husband Jan, a foreign oil rig worker. When Jan becomes paralyzed in an off-shore accident, Bess feels guilty, having prayed for his return. Her marital vows are put to the test as Jan encourages her to seek other lovers and return to his bedside to tell him of her encounters. Jan insists that these stories will keep him alive. Bess's increasing selflessness leads to a finale of divine grace, but at great cost.

Mazzoli commented: "I have never had a story sing to me like Bess McNeill's in Breaking the Waves. Immediately upon seeing this film I felt that Bess's crushing vulnerability, steadfast faith and shocking bravery could manifest in a refreshing and provocative new character on the operatic stage."

A tale described as "a theological daydream of martyrdom and redemption," Breaking the Waves runs September 22-October 1 in Philadelphia. Breaking the Waves is scored for 9 singers, men's chorus and large ensemble. The premiere cast features Keira Duffy and Jonathan Moore in a production directed by James Darrah and conducted by Steven Osgood.

Commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and Beth Morrison Projects, additional performances take place at the Prototype Festival 2017 in New York City. On September 12 in New York City, cast members perform excerpts, and Mazzoli and Vavrek discuss the creative process at the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process.


Creative Team: Join the composer, librettist, and director in a bar as they share ideas about the opera.
Scores: Peruse the full and vocal scores at ScoresOnDemand.

For specific inquiries about the opera, please contact Peggy Monastra or call 212-254-2100.

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