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Opera Philadelphia Launches Free Breaking the Waves Audio Stream on March 29

The runaway success of Opera Philadelphia’s world premiere production of Breaking the Waves marked a catalytic moment last fall, “changing many of the people who brought the piece to the stage – and the company itself” (Philadelphia Inquirer). The new adaptation of Lars von Trier’s searing Oscar-nominated film scored a nomination for the International Opera Award for Best World Premiere, and Opera News declared it “among the best 21st-century American operas yet produced.” Now home audiences the world over can hear the spellbinding production in its entirety at, starting next Wednesday, March 29 at 1pm, when Opera Philadelphia unveils a free on-demand audio stream of the world premiere production that took the opera world by storm, capping an online celebration of Women’s History Month.

An Opera Philadelphia commission from the creative team of composer Missy Mazzoli, librettist Royce Vavrek, and director James Darrah, it was Breaking the Waves that launched the company’s present season. The premiere proved a sensation. The New York Times declared the opera “ambitious, accomplished, [and] dramatically direct,” the Wall Street Journal called it “savage, heartbreaking and thoroughly original,” and for Parterre Box, Breaking the Waves was, quite simply, “the most startling and moving new American opera in memory.” As the Philadelphia Inquirer explained,

“When a new opera is commissioned, the highest hope is that the resulting piece can somehow change the art form – to evolve it. That happens, if rarely. But perhaps even rarer is the kind of alchemy that ensued when Opera Philadelphia helped to create Breaking the Waves. After the new Missy Mazzoli opera premiered in the fall, it ended up changing many of the people who brought the piece to the stage – and the company itself.”

Supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and produced by Opera Philadelphia with audio by George Blood L.P., the upcoming audio stream was captured on September 29 at the penultimate performance of the opera’s opening run, which starred soprano Kiera Duffy as Bess McNeill in “an absolutely spectacular performance” (Opera News), under the baton of Steven Osgood. Like Von Trier’s groundbreaking film, the opera depicts a tragedy of conflicting ethical imperatives that ultimately serves as a meditation on the nature of goodness. The audio will be available for streaming on-demand at The production includes explicit language, nudity, and sexual content, some of a violent nature. Recommended for mature audiences only. (See full credits below.)

The release of Breaking the Waves caps Opera Philadelphia’s Women’s History Month celebration, which is devoted to shining a spotlight on women creating opera today. Throughout March, audiences will gain access to exclusive interviews, guest blog posts, and more on and Opera Philadelphia’s social media channels.

  • March 8: In a new interview, esteemed director Robin Guarino, who will lead War Stories during Opera Philadelphia’s O17 festival next fall, explores her experience in the male-dominated field at
  • March 13-17: Breaking the Waves composer Missy Mazzoli takes over the Opera Philadelphia Instagram and Twitter accounts throughout the week with a peek at the contemporary innovators and women in history who have influenced her operatic life.
  • March 22: Hannah Moscovitch, renowned playwright and the librettist of I Have No Stories to Tell You, which makes its Philadelphia premiere next fall, reveals her path to success in a guest blog post for
  • March 29: Just before the Breaking the Waves audio cast release, Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Jennifer Higdon and Opera Philadelphia Composer in Residence Rene Orth sit down with Opera Philadelphia’s own New Works Administrator Sarah Williams for a Facebook LIVE discussion about what it takes to be a contemporary composer.

Opera Philadelphia New Works Administrator Sarah Williams explains:

“We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this month than with living history-making women such as Missy, Jennifer, Hannah, Rene, and Robin. From an opera written by a woman for a complex leading female character in Breaking the Waves, to other creative visionaries in the field (that just so happen to also be women), we honor their work and process by hearing from each of them.”

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Breaking the Waves represents the most recent of the “new and challenging works” (Daily Beast) yielded by Opera Philadelphia’s innovative American Repertoire Program. Founded in 2011 with a commitment to producing a recent American work in each of ten consecutive seasons, and thereby fostering a new generation of homegrown opera composers, the program confirms the company’s role as “one of the leading instigators of new work in the country” (Opera News).

About Opera Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the 21st century. Described as “the very model of a modern opera company” by the Washington Post, Opera Philadelphia is charting a bold new path to September, when it will open its 2017-18 season with an immersive, 12-day festival featuring seven operatic happenings in six venues throughout the city. The first festival, O17, will feature three world premieres, plus the exclusive East Coast appearance of Barrie Kosky’s groundbreaking production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and a recital by superstar soprano Sondra Radvanovsky. Opera Philadelphia will continue to present a spring season each year, including two additional productions in February and April, making it the only U.S. opera company producing an annual opera season that begins with a dynamic festival. For more information, visit

To download high-resolution photos, click here.

Opera Philadelphia: Breaking the Waves audio stream

Premieres March 29 at

Produced by Opera Philadelphia
Supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage
Audio by George Blood L.P.
American Repertoire Program
Co-commission and co-production with Beth Morrison Projects
Music by Missy Mazzoli
Libretto by Royce Vavrek
Performed in English with English supertitles
BESS McNEILL: Kiera Duffy
JAN NYMAN: John Moore*
DODO McNEILL: Eve Gigliotti
BESS’s MOTHER: Patricia Schuman
Dr. RICHARDSON: David Portillo
TERRY: Zachary James*
MINISTER: Marcus DeLoach
CONDUCTOR: Steven Osgood*
DIRECTOR: James Darrah*
SET DESIGN: Adam Rigg*
COSTUME DESIGN: Chrisi Karvonides*
LIGHTING DESIGN: Pablo Santiago*

* Opera Philadelphia debut

Support for the Breaking the Waves audio stream has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Major support for Breaking the Waves has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the William Penn Foundation, and the Wyncote Foundation at the recommendation of Daniel K. Meyer, M.D. 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 is provided by Allen Freedman & Judith Brick Freedman, and Chris Ahearn & Marla Mayer. The Composer in Residence program is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Media Contacts
Opera Philadelphia: Frank Luzi, [email protected], (215) 893-5902
21C Media Group: Glenn Petry, [email protected], (212) 625-2038

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© 21C Media Group, March 2017

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