Breaking the Waves


Opera Ventures is seeking funding for its next opera project to be presented in 2019 – the European premiere of an exciting new production, Breaking the Waves, by rising star Composer Missy Mazzoli with libretto by Royce Vavrek .

This breath-taking and haunting piece combines lyrical and contemporary storytelling, and is one of the most critically acclaimed operas of the last decade.

Based on the 1996 Academy Award-nominated film by Lars Von Trier, Breaking the Waves is set the in Scottish Highlands and tells the story of sacrificial love.

It will be directed by world-renowned director Tom Morris OBE (English National Opera and Metropolitan Opera New York), who has received universal acclaim for his production of The Death of Klinghoffer for the English National Opera, and won a Tony Award for his Broadway production of War Horse.

A much larger production than Opera Ventures’ Greek, Breaking the Waves will blend both theatre and opera through 17 orchestral parts, nine principal roles, and an all-male chorus of 12. The cast and full creative team will be announced in March 2019 together with the presenting venue.

“More than anything else, Breaking the Waves is the story about the true nature of loyalty, faith and goodness. Our heroine Bess McNeil is constantly caught in a vortex of voices; her mother, sister-in-law, husband, minister and her God all have very strong, often contradictory, ideas of how she should behave. As a woman this scenario is very familiar to me; I often have the feeling that the acceptable path of female behaviour is razor-thing, that the actions and decisions that will satisfy society’s chorus of demanding voices are nearly impossible to maintain. Bess McNeil is a woman in an impossible situation with no choice but to carve out her own moral path. Her plight resonated loudly with me as a female creator and as a woman who watched all the other women in her family find agency and power as the world denied them of it.

When writing the screenplay for Breaking the Waves Von Trier set out to make a film in which every character acted in the way that he or she felt was the most “good”. No one in the film or the opera (with the exception of two comically sadistic bit roles) is out to hurt Bess, yet everything still falls apart. No one revels in her downfall - in fact we feel that the tragedy of her death is greater for the other characters than for the audience. Yes, there is violence (against men and women) and sex in this opera - it is an opera for adults that addresses some very dark themes - but it is ultimately a work about finding agency when society denies it of you; a piece about maintaining goodness and light in a dark world.”

Missy Mazzoli, January 2019

You can help Opera Ventures to realise this exciting project by clicking on the button below

Why Breaking the Waves

Opera Ventures has chosen Breaking the Waves for its second opera production because of its outstanding score, brilliant storytelling and beautiful writing. 

Due to the emotive, powerful and informative nature of the piece, previous productions have received widespread praise, both for the quality and the emotions that the story stirs amongst its audience. 

Breaking the Waves is the ideal combination of an intriguing and captivating story, and an accessible and original score. It offers the perfect blend of theatre and opera, reaching new audiences across the globe, making opera more inclusive and accessible. 

Photo credit: Marylene Mey

Photo credit: Marylene Mey

Missy Mazzoli

Opera Ventures is delighted to be working with Missy, a rising star as a Composer, for its next production. She has previously had roles with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera and Albany Symphony.

She premiered Breaking the Waves in Philadelphia in September 2016, to great acclaim. It was described as “among the best 21st-century operas yet” (Opera News). 

You can find out more about Missy and her work here

Royce Vavrek   You can find out more about Royce and his work at .

Royce Vavrek

You can find out more about Royce and his work at