Free stream of the month: Breaking the Waves

Free stream of the month: Breaking the Waves


norman lebrecht

February 25, 2021

This is truly breaking.

Los Angeles Opera will co-present with Opera Philadelphia, a streamed performance of Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves, unquestionably America’s breakthrough opera of the past decade.

LA Opera will stream Breaking the Waves from March 19 until April 12.

Cast includes Soprano Kiera Duffy and John Moore. Steven Osgood conducts.



  • againstbigotry says:

    Not sure what exactly you’re citing as tragic, apart from the usual lack of live performances; however, it’s been seen in other places, like Prototype Festival in New York, Edinburgh, Opera Australia, etc. That said, the pandemic definitely halted productions at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, which is a shame. It’s an amazing piece.

  • Carolina says:

    A quick google shows a fabulous staging of Breaking the Waves at Edinburgh International Festival in the summer of 2019 by Scottish Opera, and a link to the trailer:

    Scottish Opera also took this to the Adelaide International Festival in March 2020 – their last performance before lockdown started.

    The Scottish Opera version was fully staged. Was the Opera Philadelphia one?

  • John Borstlap says:

    Here are excerpts and lots of explanations:

    A fragment video:

    Another fragment:

    Obviously, she goes traditional and that probably counts for its success – being accessible. Quite sensible for theatre music.

    • RW2013 says:

      Composed to please, in the style of Heggie, Previn etc.
      But if it’s “unquestionably America’s breakthrough opera of the past decade”, these are sadly lean times.

      • John Borstlap says:

        There is a difference between accessibility of musical language and something ‘composed to please’.

        A novel that is written in such a way that the reader can follow the narrative, can be bad of good or something in between. So it is with music.

        The works by Xenakis for instance, were certainly written to please, probably not a musical audience, but other people and certainly Xenakis himself. Mozart wrote to please: himself, and any audience, and also the professional ‘incrowd’; ‘für Liebhaber und Kenner’.

        If Ms Missy writes an opera that is accessible to a musical audience, that is something to her credit. Wether it is a good opera, or whether the music as such is good, are other questions – one will have to sit through it as a whole and use one’s ears carefully and attentively. The impression I get from the snippets is that it is good and effective theatre music, entirely independent from taste.

        It is a breath of fresh air that in the US, composers bring-up the courage to write real opera music, as for instance the impressive Bright Sheng opera ‘Mysteries of the Red Chamber’ which was successfully performed by the SF Opera. Some 10 years ago, Russian composer Alexander Smelkov had an entirely traditional opera ‘Brothers Karamazov’ performed in the UK and in Holland under Gergiev, a brilliant work that could have been written around 1900, and brilliantly realized. It was condemned by a general press consensus with a hatred, reminiscent of the Spanish inquisition of old, for ‘not being modern enough’, i.e. for not chasing the audience away with insanity and nihilistic ugliness. After that attack on the work, no opera house dared to produce the work, afraid to please their audience. Such is European postwar neurosis.

        • AnnaT says:

          Get a grip, please. Her name is Missy Mazzoli, so you can call her “Ms Mazzoli” if you must, but not “Ms Missy,” for heaven’s sakes.

  • Siegfried says:

    ‘still unstaged elsewhere’

    I wonder why I saw it staged at the Edinburgh Festival by Scottish Opera in 2019?

  • Alan says:

    I still wish I had not gone.
    Left at interval.
    Poorly acted, cliche ridden, awful.

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    Could someone please give a website URL or something where it can be viewed next month?

  • Gavin says:

    indeed. i saw it in edinburgh and thought it really delivered. see it if you can!

  • Steve Mendoza says:

    And West Edge Opera 2019