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.

Though the year 2018 marked the 200th birth year of Ignác Semmelweis, our world seems still not to have absorbed the powerful lessons of this story. There has never been a more urgent moment in history to reflect on the mystery of insight, the tension between truth and hubris, our cultural myopia, and the clear truth that we, as individuals and as a society, need our “outsiders,” our fresh and brave ideas, literally to survive.

Composer: Raymond J. Lustig 

Libretto: Matthew Doherty 

Director: Martin Boross 

Music Director/Conductor: Dániel Dinyés 

Dramaturg/Translator: Diána Eszter Mátrai 

With: Szilveszter P. Szabó, Veronika Nádasi, Tünde Frankó, Enikő Lévai and Anna Biczók, Julia Jakubowska, Lili Raubinek, Zsuzsa Németh, Anna Dávid, Bernadett Radics, Anita Barabás


Featuring the Bela Bartok Women’s Chorus of Szolnok, Dir. Éva Molnár


Choreographer: Anna Biczók 

Assistant Music Director: Szabolcs Hermann 

Set and Costume Design: Jenny Horváth

Assistant Director: András Tucker 

Lighting Design: József Dreiszker 

Video Concept/Design: András Juhász 

Video Execution: Dávid Maruscsák 

Hungarian Translation: Anna T. Szabó 

Production Assistant: Dóra Tési 

a Co-production of Budapest Operetta Theater and the Bartok Plusz Opera Festival


Press from 2018-19 tour:

Gulyás Gábor, Papago, “Clean hands,” January 13, 2019 

“…a spectacular project…a non-typical opera…outside of musical genre here in a particularly compelling way, given the question of opera vs. operetta of the Operetta Theater, and that the female chorus and soloists give the overture and the main themes.” 

“The narrative is not lost in details (dramaturg: Diána Mátrai Eszter). The story is not the least ornate; we don’t see much about how Semmelweis gets to his current renown; neither is the emphasis on the psychological analysis of his madness. The work focuses more on highlighting truths beyond the specific cases, and this gives the basis of the direction of Martin Boross.” 

“The world-class, beautiful video (Dávid Maruscsák) also serve the purpose”    


From the Budapest premiere of SEMMELWEIS, September 28, 2018:

“a gripping and unique experience…spectacular…a performance that provoked multiple catharses…one of the best theatrical productions of recent years” — Magyar Midök, Hungary

“the strength of Semmelweis as a written piece is its music…strong images and without pre-digested clichés turning the fable of hand-washing into a contemporary message” — Élet és Irodalom, Hungary

“truly contemporary direction that is filled with great ideas…well worth seeing as it has so much to offer ” — Theater of the Whole

“the term ‘operetta’ must not mislead from the seriousness of the musical argument…solid dramatic construct” — Sipario, Italy

“No sentimental story in the romantic style, no concession to mythologies or stories of the supernatural, nothing like a hero story…an opera quite distinct from the genre of operetta or musical…stunning performances that allowed the work to masterfully realize the universal sound world conceived for this work by a particularly inspired Ray Lustig.” — operaclick.com, Italy

“ethereal…mysterious…a colorful and rich musical composition.” — Csillagpont Radio, Hungary

“powerfully resonant…gripping”  — New York Music Daily, USA

“alternately austere and lustrous…otherworldly” — Lucid Culture, USA

“unusual, convincing and imaginative piece…floating…exciting and powerful” — Fidelio, Hungary

Noémi Herczog, Élet és Irodalom, “I wash my hands,” October 19, 2018

“the strength of Semmelweis as a written piece is its music: the choir singing in countless parts and the acoustic sections reminiscent of Philip Glass, opposing these the musical-like arias”

“The current general director, György Lőrinczy…calls for [genre-defying works] many times and gives complete freedom to some creators who are thinking of a non-operetta but not pure genre. It is not a criticism if I say that presentations have changed but have not changed their hopes, since it is the essence of experimentation.”

“…we have found that established institutions can constrain the young director who wants to renew it. Boross Martin’s Semmelweis is perhaps the first example of a case where this is the reverse.”

“[articulated] through strong images and without pre-digested clichés turning the fable of hand-washing into a contemporary message”

“tableaus, the gracefully proud movements of Julia Jakubowska. The choir appearing like Fates in a tragedy. ”

“in the feminist reading of the director, we can be made to recall the recent #MeToo movement”


Zsuzsanna Szekáry, Magyar Idők, “Soul-anatomy with Catharses,” September 29, 2018

“Even the next day I find it hard to find the words for this work, described as an ‘oratorical diagnosis,’ as it was such a gripping and unique experience.”

“Beyond the storyline itself, the play transmits impressions, images, and feelings: we look inside the soul of the self-defeating Semmelweis, who burns from his inner turmoil and the desire to act, and crumbles under the weight of guilt, shame, and self-accusation, conveyed onstage with profound empathy by Szilveszter P. Szabó.”

“Similarly, towering was the performance of Veronika Nádasi who authentically brought to life the despair of the wife of a doctor balancing on the edge of insanity.”

“The other protagonists of the production are the Bartók Béla Chamber Choir of Szolnok, who sang with astounding professionalism, often in eight parts, at times ethereal and other times dissonant and unpredictable, suitable to their haunting role, for which the Budapest Operetta Theater Chamber Orchestra provided live music using special instruments.”

“spectacular…the choir, soloists, and contemporary dancers, all representing women who have died of childbed fever, come together to haunt Semmelweis”

“a performance that provoked multiple catharses for me…one of the best theatrical productions of recent years”


John Theater, Theater of the Whole, “Semmelweis (Budapest Operetta Theater, Warehouse Theater, 2018),” October 4, 2018

“[Music director] Dániel Dinyes, who is also the conductor of the performance, played a great role in the music’s interpretation… he is always a guarantee for emotional, fierce, quality gameplay.”

“the 16-women choir (Bartók Béla Szolnok Chamber Choir), mostly represent the spirits of dead mothers who are constantly tempting Semmelweis. They are present as the audience enters, singing, which sets the appropriate atmosphere, and their introduction is well-conceived.”

“…video in the background, on the stage wall, only adds to the visual world. Just as spirits (Anna Biczók, Júlia Hadi, Julia Jakubowska, Lili Raubinek) who, as Semmelweis’s team of doctors, or as a parent or dying mother, bring a real motion-theater dimension to the stage.”

“in the last third of the story…we can get an insight into their married life. In addition to being the most beautiful part of the opera’s opera… [Veronika] Nádasi once again proved that she is one of the most powerful actors in the Operetta Theater.”

“[Semmelweis’s] despair and struggle are particularly touching, as evidenced by the high number of spectators’ handkerchiefs…”

“truly contemporary direction that is filled with great ideas.”

“well worth seeing as it has so much to offer ”


Andrea Stuber, stubandrea.hu “Napló,” September 30, 2018

“The visual world of the performance is almost astute, but still precisely poetic: three pulpits horizontally divided, and above them the actors: mourning women in black, their golden gloves tracing white and bloody stripes flooding the walls – this impressive view is the start.”

“considering that both an autopsy and a birth happen on stage, every action is theatrical and beautifully stylized”


From the Miskolc world premiere, June 9, 2018:

Federica Fanizza, Sipario, Italy, “In search of the new opera,” June 17, 2018

“the term ‘operetta’ must not mislead from the seriousness of the musical argument…solid dramatic construct”


David Toschi, operaclick.com, Italy, “Miskolc – Teatro Nazionale: Semmelweis”

“No sentimental story in the romantic style, no concession to mythologies or stories of the supernatural, nothing like a hero story”

“… an opera quite distinct from the genre of operetta or musical, allowing for an effective investigation of the dramatic features of the main character presented by Szilveszter P Szabó, who delivers excellently in both acting and vocal interpretation…”

“The ‘oratorical diagnostic report’ is transformed into a work of contemporary music with a great many folkloric elements…a score both refined and primigenial, where the dialogical and rich singing of Szabó merges with the conspicuous and precise sound of the Chamber Orchestra of the Budapest Operetta Theater, and of the Bartók Béla Chamber Choir of Szolnok, well conducted by the calm Dániel Dinyés”

“…stunning performances that allowed the work to masterfully realize the universal sound world conceived for this work by a particularly inspired Ray Lustig.”

“The success of the show is certainly a good omen as well for the scheduled performances at Budapest Operetta-Theater throughout the summer.”

Csaba Németh, Csillagpont Radio, Hungary, “Semmelweis Opera – Oratoric Disease, Hungary’s premiere in Miskolc,” June 11, 2018

“ethereal… mysterious… a colorful and rich musical composition”


Zsófia Hózsa, Fidelio, Hungary, “The surreal Semmelweis operated in Miskolc,” June 10, 2018

“unusual, convincing and imaginative work…floating…exciting and powerful”


Oratórikus kórkép – magyarországi ősbemutató

A Bartók Plusz Operafesztivál és a Budapesti Operettszínház közös produkciója

„A gyilkolásnak meg kell szűnnie, és hogy megszűnjék, őrszemen fogok állani, és aki veszélyes tanokat merészel hirdetni a gyermekágyi lázról, erélyes ellenfélre fog bennem találni.” S. I.

Doktor Semmelweis Ignác boszorkányüldözött ember volt a maga korában. Mániákus, kellemetlen figurának tartották. Családja és kollégái elárulták, s végül egy elmegyógyintézetben saját ápolói ölték meg. Bűne az volt, hogy új tanokat mert hirdetni, konokul kitartott meggyőződése mellett, és mindent kockára téve harcolt az igazáért.

Felfedezte, miként lehetne kiküszöbölni a gyermekágyi lázat. A megoldás egyszerű volt, ám süket fülekre talált. Tömegével haltak meg anyák a szülés után, de az orvosi elit tagjai nem akartak szembenézni a saját felelősségükkel: gondatlanságukkal ők maguk terjesztik a fertőzést. A forradalmak és felfedezések korszakában Semmelweis saját forradalma elbukott, és mintegy száz évnek kellett eltelnie, mire elnyerhette az “anyák megmentője” címet. Az ősbemutató amerikai zeneszerzője, Raymond J. Lustig és szövegírója, Matthew Doherty az önmagával és a világgal viaskodó Semmelweis pszichéjében, valóság és képzelet mezsgyéjén kalauzolja végig a közönséget. Az oratórikus kórképben kiemelt szerepet tölt be a női kar, Semmelweis figurájának musicalhatású szólóit és a dallamos, olykor misztikus hangulatú énekkari tételeket pedig egy különleges hangszereket is megszólaltató kamarazenekar kíséri.

A darab címszerepét Szabó P. Szilveszter játssza, szövegét Szabó T. Anna költő ülteti át magyar nyelvre. A produkciót különleges vizuális világgal, számos vendégalkotó bevonásával a fiatal rendező, Boross Martin állítja színpadra.


Külön köszönet: Edward Andrews

Fordította: Szabó T. Anna
Dramaturg: Mátrai Diána Eszter


Nyáry Krisztián Igazi hősök – 33 magyar című könyve Semmelweis Ignácról szóló fejezetének felhasználásával


Vezényel: Dinyés Dániel, Hermann Szabolcs


Semmelweis Ignác: Szabó P. Szilveszter

Mária: Nádasi Veronika

Susan: Lévai Enikő

Párka: Frankó Tünde



Biczók Anna, Julia Jakubowska, Raubinek Lili, Németh Zsuzsa, Dávid Anna, Radics Bernadett, Barabás Anita


Közreműködik: a Szolnoki Bartók Béla Kamarakórus és a Budapesti Operettszínház Kamarazenekara


Zenei vezető: Dinyés Dániel

Zenei munkatársak: Mazalin Wanda, Hermann Szabolcs

Videó koncepció: Juhász András

Videó kivitelezés: Maruscsák Dávid

A rendező munkatársa: Julia Jakubowska 

Játékmester: Tucker András

Asszisztens: Tési Dóra 

Koreográfus-asszisztens: Czár Mónika

Látványtervező: Horváth Jenny

Koreográfus: Biczók Anna

Rendező: Boross Martin


A Semmelweis Emlékév támogatásával.