Breaking the Waves, from composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek made its European premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival on Wednesday 21 August in a co-production by Opera Ventures, Scottish Opera and Houston Grand Opera, in association with Bristol Old Vic.
Breaking the Waves was directed by Tom Morris and designed by Soutra Gilmour. Stuart Stratford conducted The Orchestra of Scottish Opera, and soprano Sydney Mancasola made her company debut in the role of Bess. She was joined by Duncan Rock, Wallis Giunta, Susan Bullock, Elgan Llyr Thomas, Byron Jackson and Freddie Tong.
In a five star review for The Scotsman, Ken Walton said that ‘Mazzoli and Vavrek struck operatic gold’, while Simon Thompson claimed that this new work ‘restores faith in opera as an art form’ in Seen and Heard International. In The Times, Neil Fisher praised the ‘thick, smeary and moreish textures’ of the music in his four star review.
Much acclaim was given to Sydney Mancasola’s performance as Bess, which The Times called ‘extraordinarily gutsy’. In Bachtrack, David Smythe complimented Sydney’s ‘towering performance,’ words also used by Tom Kyle in the Scottish Daily Mail. Writing for The Herald, Keith Bruce commented: ‘her vocal performance, which includes fine diction that hints at, but never overdoes, the story’s Scottish Highlands setting, is matched by fearless acting.’ Ken Walton called her performance ‘a compelling tour de force, encompassing every emotional extreme’.
Praise too came for the rest of the cast, with Simon Thompson noting ‘Wallis Giunta sings with warm humanity’ in the role of Dodo. As Jan, Neil Fisher praised Duncan Rock’s ‘nobly sung’ performance. David Smythe observed ‘Susan Bullock gave a strong performance as the conflicted Mother’ and Ken Walton noted that ‘the chorus act and sing with fearsome realism’.
Commendation for Stuart Stratford and The Orchestra of Scottish Opera came from The Herald who complimented ‘evocative music superbly played by a 27-piece ensemble conducted by Stuart Stratford.’ Neil Fisher admired ‘The grungy scrunch of an electric guitar and the dry rasp of percussion’ to ‘add eerie colour.’ Tom Kyle noted: ‘Music Director Stuart Stratford conducts The Orchestra of Scottish Opera with real insight and sympathy’ and Carol Main lauded the ‘classy performance’ in The List.
★★★★★ – The Scotsman
★★★★ – The Times
★★★★ – The Herald
★★★★ – Bachtrack
★★★★ – The List
★★★★ – Scottish Daily Mail
★★★★ – The Observer
Tickets for the two final performances are available here: https://www.eif.co.uk/whats-on/2019/breakingwaves