Lars von Trier gets the operatic treatment

Ben Hamilton
September 14th, 2016

This article is more than 7 years old.

Adaptation of ‘Breaking the Waves’ enjoys US premiere

Von Trier’s female characters always have their pick, and fill, of men, but hey: they’re complex! (photo: operaphila.org)

As the Cannes crowd know only too well, Lars von Trier has always been a big fan of Wagner.

READ MORE: Mourning the auteurs: are the days of the visionaries numbered?

So it won’t surprise many film buffs to learn that his 1996 acclaimed movie ‘Breaking the Waves’ has been turned into an opera.

After all, few can forget his chilling use of Handel’s ‘Rinaldo’ in his 2009 film ‘Antichrist’ to accompany the death of a child, or the operatic nature of his 2011 psychological drama ‘Melancholia’, which draws heavily on Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’.

A new Philadelphia story
‘Breaking the Waves: The Opera’ enjoyed its premiere last night at the Perelman Theater in Philadelphia, where it will play from September 22 until October 1 before resuming its run in New York in January.

Composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek have adapted Von Trier and Peter Asmussen’s tale of a young Scottish woman’s unconditional love for her Danish husband and what happens to their love life when he becomes a paraplegic.

In an interview with Opera Philadelphia (see below), Mazzoli revealed how she was impressed by the story’s great ideas: “goodness, nature, loyalty, nature of faith, nature”.

No men-addicted shopaholics
And additionally Mazzoli was drawn to Bess, the protagonist, who is memorably played by Emily Watson in the film.

“In most movies, women are reduced to the role of a men-addicted shopaholic,” she said.

“But not Bess. She is just the opposite.”


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