Semmelweis
Composer: Raymond J Lustig
Librettist: Matthew Doherty and Matt Gray
Original Cast: Amy Justman
Joseph Keckler
Michael Marcotte
Kate Maroney
Marguerite French
Harrison Unger
Work Web Site: www.operaprojects.org/semmelweis.htm
Premiere Date: Not available.
Description: Vienna, ca. 1848 – Hungarian-born obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweis, working at Europe’s premier hospital the Vienna Algemeine Krankenhaus, is drawing upon every experience of his life as he struggles to find the solution to one of history’s most devastating childbed fever epidemics, which is killing mothers at a horrific rate. But convincing the world of his simple solution will be a battle not just against the rigid Viennese status quo, but against his deepest demons.

Working on the front lines of the deadly fever—and with decades to go before Lister, Pasteur, and Koch formulated the germ theory of disease—Ignaz Semmelweis, struggles in darkness to understand the strange pattern of disease transmission he is observing. Why are his brilliant doctors losing more women than the midwives next door? Why does physical proximity to sick patients not seem to be a more relevant factor in transmitting the fever? The tragic death of his dear friend and colleague Jakob Kolletschka provides a valuable clue, but he must search far and wide, to reach deep into his mind, into his past and the stories of others, to memories strange and sometimes painful, to see the disturbing answer—that it is the doctors themselves who are transmitting the fever, their healing hands carrying unknown “particles” from autopsied corpses into the bodies of healthy women. Without an explanation for these mysterious particles, he is powerless to convince the medical establishment of this terrible truth. Each new death begins to seem a murder, and the ghosts of the dead women haunt him to madness.
Length: 00:45
Total Acts: Not Available
Orchestration: Can be performed either in piano/vocal form or in its 16-piece chamber orchestra form: 2 clarinets, marimba and percussion, accordion, and strings (min. 3,3,3,2,1).
Musical Style: This work has features of both musical theater and contemporary opera, and contains both spoken and sung text.
Contact: Matt Gray
E-mail Address: mgray@operaprojects.org
Composer Web Site: www.raymondlustig.com
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