Orchestra Victoria

Breaking the Waves

Opera Australia

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You have a golden heart, sometimes too golden, too good. And who am I to warn you of living a life too honest, too true?

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  • Melbourne / Naarm

    26 & 28 July 2024

    Hamer Hall
    Arts Centre Melbourne
    100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne

  • Duration

    Approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes, including one interval.

  • Ticket Price Range

    From $69 + $9.80 booking fee

Lars von Trier’s 1996 film about a young woman’s shocking sacrifices for her husband was an immediate sensation on its premiere, winning the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival. The story of the devout Bess McNeill, and the stormy Scottish Highland community she belongs to, resonates deeply with audiences and is now a powerful new opera for our times.

Bess has fallen for Jan, a handsome foreigner and oil rig worker. Soon after their wedding, Jan survives a serious accident that sees him paralysed. Bess’s marital vows and unwavering love are put to the test when her husband asks her to sleep with other men and tell him of her sexual activities. Jan’s request puts Bess at odds with her fiercely religious community, setting in motion a disastrous series of events.

As von Trier breaks open the extreme emotional possibilities of cinema, so does Missy Mazzoli with opera.

Dubbed by Time Out as “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart”, Mazzoli is one of the most exciting composers working anywhere in the world. Her adaptation of von Trier’s film has been acclaimed as one of the 21st century’s best operas.

The film’s unsettling silence becomes a roar of emotion in Mazzoli’s score. The suffocating, revealing close-ups become richly textured arias.

Australian conductor Jessica Cottis and Melbourne Theatre Company Artistic Director Anne-Louise Sarks bring Bess’s story to life in this semi-staged production.

The cast is led by the superb Jennifer Black as Bess. Australian-raised baritone Duncan Rock plays Jan, reprising his acclaimed performance from the opera’s European premiere at Edinburgh International Festival.

Please note: This production contains depictions of sexual violence.

Cast & Creative

Composer Missy Mazzoli
Libretto Royce Vavrek
Based on the film by Lars von Trier
Conductor Jessica Cottis
Director Anne-Louise Sarks

Bess Jennifer Black
Jan Duncan Rock
Dodo Sian Sharp
Mother Emma Matthews

Orchestra Victoria

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