Breaking the Waves

Opera Philadelphia



Kiera Duffy as Bess in Breaking the Waves. Photo by Dominic M. Mercier, courtesy of Opera Philadelphia.


Baritone John Moore as Jan Nyman and soprano Kiera Duffy as Bess McNeill in Breaking the Waves. Photo by
Dominic M. Mercier.


The oil workers, portrayed by members of the Opera Philadelphia Chorus, toil on the rig in Breaking the Waves. Photo by Nicholas Korkos.


Soprano Patricia Schuman as Bess' mother in Breaking the Waves. Photo by Dominic M. M

Opera Philadelphia presented Breaking the Waves, a new chamber opera by composer-in-residence Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek. Inspired by the 1996 film by Danish auteur Lars von Trier, the work tells the complex, harrowing tale of Bess, a naive newlywed who has chosen to marry outside of her strict Calvinist community in coastal Scotland. Mazzoli's score paid homage to Von Trier's directorial style in the vocal and orchestral balance, as well as the multilayered approach to characters. The opera presented a raw and sparse sound, portraying a dichotomy of dark and light through music and voice, and was performed by a cast of eight featured singers, a chorus, and a 15-piece chamber ensemble drawn from the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra.

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