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Review Roundup: BREAKING THE WAVES at Edinburgh International Festival

Review Roundup: BREAKING THE WAVES at Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh International Festival returns for its 73rd year on 2 - 26 August 2019, bringing the best of theatre, music and dance from across the world to Scotland's capital. The programme features 93 events, with 293 performances across 17 venues and 2600 artists from 40 nations including Australia, Nigeria, Canada, Belgium, China, Mali, Holland, South Africa, New Zealand, France, Germany, India, Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Scottish Opera and Opera Ventures present the European premiere of American composer Missy Mazzoli's contemporary opera Breaking the Waves, in a new production from Tony award-winning director Tom Morris. Based on Lars von Trier's controversial 1996 film, Mazzoli's multi-layered and melodic score recalls Britten and Janá?ek, creating a dark soundscape which underlines the moral ambiguity of the story. US soprano Sydney Mancasola and Scottish-born baritone Duncan Rock lead the ensemble cast.

Let's see what the critics have to say?

Rowena Smith, The Guardian: Mazzoli and Vavrek adhere fairly closely to the film's structure, and this is where the problems start: what works well as narrative on screen doesn't translate so happily to the stage. The opera is most successful in its opening act, contrasting Bess and Jan's passion against the narrow-mindedness of the Free Church elders. Later, as the melodrama mounts, with Bess resorting to ever more risky sexual encounters, the opera loses its way. The strange, almost lyrical drama of the film is missing, and there isn't enough dramatic tension to sustain momentum, particularly in the closing scenes where the the mystical, fey quality of the film is transformed into something rather more mundane.

Daniel Perks, BroadwayWorld: Despite Morris's detailed vision for the piece, Breaking The Waves suffers from pacing issues. A beautifully drawn out Act I sets up the premise with poise and precision. Act II severely stalls, flailing about in the water, and Act III succinctly washes all the hard work away amid a torrent of overwrought emotion. There's no finesse to the several potential epilogues to this opera, and, as such, its conclusion feels disjointed. Mancasola, Mazzoli, Morris - a powerful trio leading a forceful production. And, as the waves crash upon the rocks before receding back into the wash, so Breaking The Waves itself has ebb and flow. What it lacks is a consistent fluidity.

David Nice, The Arts Desk: Love him or hate him, Lars von Trier has time and again made the unpalatable and the improbable real and shatteringly moving in a succession of great films. Breaking the Waves set an audacious precedent. Baldly told, it's a story of a mentally ill, deeply loving woman at odds with her Hebridean community who thinks she can save her paralysed husband by having sex with strangers and describing the acts to him. The numinous outcome requires suspension of disbelief, and in one way opera is equipped to do that. But the art-form is littered with problem plots about sacrificial women, albeit so often set to glorious music, so it was going to take a genius on von Trier's level to reach the essence in a different way. Premiered in Philadelphia in 2016, Missy Mazzoli's attempt, for all her fitful skill in operatic story-telling, doesn't come close.

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