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HGO Premiere

Breaking the Waves

Music by Missy Mazzoli
Lyrics by Royce Vavrek

Apr. 16 - Apr. 29

How far will you go for love?

Based on the Lars von Trier film, this daring new production of Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s Breaking the Waves, has been hailed as “extraordinarily gutsy and spinetingling” (The Times) and “operatic gold” (The Scotsman). This tragic story follows Bess, a woman in a deeply religious town in the Scottish Highlands. Her marriage to Jan, a charismatic outsider, tests the limits of their insular society when a tragic accident leaves him paralyzed. Faced with unfathomable consequences, Bess must choose between her husband, her community, and her faith.

HGO Studio alumna Lauren Snouffer stars as the conflicted heroine Bess with Alexander Birch Elliott as her husband Jan. Nicole Paiement makes her HGO debut at the podium.

  • Price Range
    $20 - $210
  • Age
    Mature content. Audience discretion advised.
  • Running Time
    2 hours 29 minutes. One intermission.
  • Language
    Sung in English with projected English text.

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Important 2020-21 Season Updates

HGO patrons and subscribers who currently have tickets for the 2020–21 season will have their subscriptions moved to the 2021–22 season automatically. In appreciation of their continued support, existing tickets to Breaking the Waves and The Sound of Music will be made complimentary. More information and additional options can be found at or contact Customer Service at 713-228-6737.

What People Are Saying

"Above all, her music lets us into Bess’s head. More than that: in a sense, Bess conjures the whole opera. Her community is silent, but she loves music. 'Maybe she is music,' Mazzoli suggests. So while we might expect those rough waves and gentle meadows to come from the orchestra, instead Mazzoli gives us a sumptuous electronic soundscape that emerges from the ether."

-The Guardian


"It is a tremendously powerful idea – an operatically transfigurative idea – as if the entire work, the entire genre, becomes the spirit Bess can’t set free in the film. If ever Mazzoli was concerned about what opera might add to Von Trier’s supernatural epic, here is the answer."

-The Guardian

Cast & Creative

Creative Team
Nicole Headshot A 2018
Nicole Paiement


Tom Morris Resized
Tom Morris


Soutra Gilmour

Set and Costume Designer

Richard Howell 2020
Richard Howell

Lighting Designer

Will Duke 2019
Will Duke

Projection Designer

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Richard Bado, Chorus Master
The Sarah and Ernest Butler Chorus Master Chair

A co-production with Opera Ventures in association with Bristol Old Vic 

Production Sponsors

  • Robin Angly and Miles Smith

  • Drs. Liz Grimm and Jack Roth

  • Sara and Gabriel Loperena

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