SEMMELWEIS is a new 75-minute music-theater work inspired by the tragic story of nineteenth-century Hungarian obstetrician Ignác Semmelweis (1818-1865), who discovered the cure for a devastating epidemic but could not convince the world of the simple solution, and died alone in an asylum. Dr. Semmelweis had been the first to see an unthinkable truth: that the deadly disease was passing from the bodies of the dead to healthy mothers on the unwashed hands of the doctors themselves.
SEMMELWEIS explores the theme that everything we think we know can be overturned violently, and asks what is it like to be the first to see into a terrible blind spot and perceive a truth too awful to believe? To be an “outsider”—a “foreign” doctor, Hungarian, but living and working in Vienna’s top hospital in a xenophobic era—and to fear that no one heard you, that the answer may die with you? To hold an earth-shattering insight, and yet be haunted by all the mothers that would not be saved.
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University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health Creates Community-Wide Watch Party and Discussion of SEMMELWEIS
Discussion and Q&A to follow, with Ray Lustig (composer), Matt Gray (general director of The American Opera Project), David Finegold, MD (Univ. of Pittsburgh faculty of Human Genetics), and Cindy Bryce, PhD (Univ. of Pittsburgh faculty of Health Policy and Management)
…in “Semmelweis,” New York-based composer Raymond J. Lustig tells his story as a musical “death dream” of sorts, with compelling beauty and eerie prescience.
The Washington Post, “Music for the pandemic: A hand-washing opera, a fanfare for nurses and a socially distant chorus,” Michael Andor Brodeur