Missy Mazzoli

Breaking the Waves

Libretto by Royce Vavrek

A new co-production with Opera Ventures &
Houston Grand Opera, in association with Bristol Old Vic

Missy Mazzoli’s dark and daring opera caused a sensation when it premiered in 2016 – it won the 2017 Best New Opera Award from the Music Critics Association of North America and was shortlisted for an International Opera Award.

Based on Lars von Trier’s award-winning film, with libretto by Royce Vavrek, it tells the story of a young woman living in the Scottish Highlands in the 1970s. Caught in a torrent of contradictions about how to behave, she struggles to appease. Then, following a tragic accident, she finds herself in an impossible situation, and has no choice but to carve out her own path…

‘Savage, heartbreaking, and thoroughly original.’ The Wall Street Journal

Bristol Old Vic’s Tom Morris, Tony Award-winning director of War Horse, follows his acclaimed The Death of Klinghoffer at ENO and the Met with the European premiere of Mazzoli’s hugely original work. The international cast includes American soprano Sydney Mancasola, Edinburgh-born baritone Duncan Rock and Irish-Canadian mezzo Wallis Giunta, winner of the 2018 International Opera Award’s Young Singer of the Year. Music Director Stuart Stratford conducts.

Please note: Contains strong language, violence, adult themes and partial nudity

Running time approx.  2 hrs 30 mins
Sung in English with English supertitles

Co-presented with Opera Ventures, Houston Grand Opera and Théâtre national de l’Opéra Comique in association with Bristol Old Vic.

This production has been made possible with support from Howard and Sarah Solomon Foundation, Denise Coates Foundation, Karl Sydow, Scottish Opera’s New Commissions Circle, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music and a syndicate of donors. 


Cast & Creative Team

Bess McNeill
Sydney Mancasola

Jan Nyman
Duncan Rock

Dodo McNeill
Wallis Giunta

Susan Bullock

Dr Richardson
Elgan Llŷr Thomas

Byron Jackson

Freddie Tong

Stuart Stratford

Tom Morris

Soutra Gilmour

Lighting Designer
Richard Howell

Projection Designer
Will Duke

Sound Designer
Jon Nicholls

Associate Director & Movement
Sara Brodie


Listen to the music for Breaking the Waves in this audio stream from Opera Philadelphia's world premiere production of the opera in 2016, at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

What the press said

'Mazzoli and Vavrek struck operatic gold.’  ★★★★ The Scotsman

'The drama is gripping in Tom Morris's taut direction' - ★★★★★ The List

'(Sydney Mancasola) is a soprano tour-de-force ★★★★ The Herald 

'Mazzoli’s music gets under the skin of the claustrophobic island community.' ★★★★ Bachtrack

'Extraordinarily gutsy and spine-tingling’.  ★★★★ The Times

'Restores faith in opera as an art form’  Seen and Heard International