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Missy Mazzoli on composing Breaking the Waves

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The US composer gives us her own insights into the award-winning new opera.

Following the critically acclaimed production of Greek in 2017, Opera Ventures, Scottish Opera and the Edinburgh International Festival reunite to co-present Breaking the Waves.

The opera, based on the controversial film by Lars von Trier, caused a sensation when it premiered in 2016 and went on to win the 2017 Best New Opera Award at the Music Critics Association of North America and was shortlisted the same year for an International Opera Award.

Missy Mazzoli was recently deemed ‘Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart’ by Time Out New York. The composer’s outstanding score of multi-layered, melodic music conjures a dark, luscious soundscape, with shades of Britten and Janáček.

This is Mazzoli’s second opera with her librettist Royce Vavrek after their first creation Song from the Uproar was premiered in 2012. Vavrek, who remembers renting von Trier’s film on VHS as a teen, marks that as the point he became a fan of the filmmaker’s work remember the film as ‘painting operatic ideas on a filmmaking canvas’.

Watch Missy Mazzoli talk about her process of writing Breaking the Waves with librettist Royce Vavrek, the inspirations behind adapting Lars von Trier's wrenching moral drama into an award-winning new opera and how much it means to her to have the European premiere in Edinburgh.

I think opera is a place for big ideas and this is a story that is full of big ideas.

Missy Mazzoli

Click here to watch a captioned version of the video.


Opera Ventures and Scottish Opera's production of Breaking the Waves will be at the King's Theatre on 21-24 August as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

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