View all shows

Breaking the Waves

About the show

New York City Premiere

Set in the Scottish Highlands in the early 1970s, Breaking the Waves tells the story of Bess McNeill, a religious young woman with a deep love for her husband Jan, a handsome oil rig worker. When Jan becomes paralyzed in an off-shore accident, Bess’s marital vows are put to the test as he encourages her to seek other lovers and return to his bedside to tell him of her sexual activities. He insists that the stories will feel like they are making love together and keep him alive. Bess’s increasing selflessness leads to a finale of divine grace, but at great cost.

Breaking the Waves is a part of our fifth annual PROTOTYPE Festival, co-produced with Beth Morrison Projects. For more information on the artists, works and events in this year's festival please visit the PROTOTYPE website.


Composer: Missy Mazzoli

Librettist: Royce Vavrek

Based on the film by: Lars Von Trier

Director: James Darrah

Conductor: Julian Wachner

Scenic Designer: Adam Rigg

Lighting Designer: Pablo Santiago

Projection Designer: Adam Larsen

Costume Designer: Chrisi Karvonides

Bess McNeill: Kiera Duffy

Jan Nyman: John Moore

Bess’s Mother: Theodora Hanslow
Dodo McNeill: Eve Gigliotti

Dr. Richardson: Ryan McPherson

Terry: Matthew Curran
The Minister: Marcus DeLoach
The Sadistic Sailor: John David Miles
The Runt: George Ross Somerville
The Stone Thrower: Daniel Taylor

Featuring NOVUS NY and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street

Chorus: Jim Gwathney, Stephen Humes, Thomas McCarger, Scott Mello, John Miles, Garrett Obrycki, George Somerville, Tim Stopper, Dan Taylor, Jackson Williams, and Steven Williamson

NOVUS NY Orchestra: Katie Hyun, Edson Scheid, Nathan Schram, Doug Balliett, Melissa Baker, Stuart Breczinski, Benjamin Fingland, Bard Balliett, David Byrd-Marrow, Mike Lormand, Ian Rosenbaum, Bridget Kibbey, Charity Wicks, and Taylor Levine

Breaking the Waves was co-commissioned with Opera Philadelphia and Beth Morrison Projects. World Premiere production by Opera Philadelphia.

Major support for Breaking the Waves has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the William Penn Foundation. Additional support is provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and OPERA America's Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Additional commissioning support by Allen Freedman and Judith Brick Freedman and Linda and Stuart Nelson.

Co-presented with NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts – New York University. 

Photo by Dominic M. Mercier for Opera Philadelphia


January 6-7 & 9 @ 7:30PM

At Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

Running time 155 mins

Show dates


1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 1 2 3 4