Semmelweis libretto reading, June 25th, 2012

Please share your thoughts about this program with us.
Your responses are critical in helping AOP develop new music!


Monday, June 25th at 7pm at HERE Arts Center

libretto reading of the opera-in-progress
Libretto by Matt Gray / Music by Raymond J. Lustig
Additional lyrics by Matthew Doherty

Featuring Q&A with the creators and artists and Dr. Warren D. Widmann, Clinical Professor of Surgery at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center


Ryan Andes*                      Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis
Megan Ketch*                    Oona
Paul Schneider                 Dr. Jakob Kolletschka
Alisha Spielmann*          Maria Semmelweis
Angus Hepburn*              Dr. Johann Klein
Harrison Unger               Dr. Ferdinand von Hebra
Olivia Baseman *             Bianka
Matthew Foster                Government Minister, Dr. Skoda, various
Jerry Marsini                    Habsburg General, Dr. Rokitansky, various
Marguerite French*       Revolutionary, Nurse in Records Dept., various
Denice Kondik                  Stage directions, Head Nurse

*Appears courtesy Actors Equity Association

Your response is essential to the creative process. Please take a moment to respond to the following questions or provide your additional comments below.

  • What are the most memorable moments from the libretto?
  • What scenes, characters, ideas, etc. did you find confusing, ineffective, or unnecessary?
  • Were you bored? If so, at what point did you feel the story started to lag?
  • What is this story most fundamentally about for you?  If you had to put the essence of this play into a single sentence, what would it be?
  • Does the revolution analogy work for you?  Is there too much, or not enough, emphasis on the political revolution?
  • How do you interpret the meta-narrative passages?  What do they bring to the overall work?  Do they work?
  • Do you think Semmelweis is an effective title for the work? Do you have other title suggestions?

5 Responses to Semmelweis libretto reading, June 25th, 2012

  1. Heidi Jerome says:

    We all enjoyed it and had good discussions on the way home. I looked Semmelweiss up on Wikipedia when I got home. You have
    hewn close to the real facts.

    Here’s my feedback: I loved it. The story is compelling. Particularly moving are the scenes with Oona, Maria and Bianca. I wanted to know more about the Bianca relationship.

    The addition of music and staging will make the military scenes truly
    terrific. They were very stirring in this reading.

    I was puzzled by the two times the actors broke roles, as it didn’t seem to add to the presentation. And I was puzzled by Oona’s anger at Semmelweiss at some point during the second act, as it wasn’t clear what he had done wrong.

    I am looking forward to seeing more of this as it progresses.

  2. I’m concerned about calling this piece an opera. If opera is the marriage of words and music, then Raymond is going to have to write a lot of music, and the “opera” will reach Wagnerian lengths. Nothing wrong with that artistically, I just think that it will be very difficult to stage. It seems to me that you guys are heading into a final work which will ultimately be a play about Semmelweiss with incidental music by Raymond.

    The reading that I attended felt more like the reading of a play, not the reading of a libretto. I think the work has to be trimmed down a bit. Matt Gray has to think of establishing sequences where Raymond’s music can dominate. The composer must take a more active role.

    Ultimately when we think of the great partnerships in opera we think of Mozart-Da Ponte, Verdi-Boito, but when somebody asks who wrote Don Giovanni they say Mozart, or who wrote Otello? – Verdi. I think that there has to be a more equal participation from both creators if the work is going to be labeled an opera the way I understand the concept of opera to be.

    Just my two cents. I envy you guys: you have a tremendous property in your hands, and a world of incredible choices to make in order to perfect it. Keep me posted on the progress of this piece.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Memorable – the double wedding, Semmelweis’ dry spell, dream scene. Not at all confusing, not bored.

    Freedom to think and do good is an act of individuality, and worth fighting for. Revolution balanced; narrative yes and no. For a play, fine, but for an opera, not sure.

    Not enough arias; I love arias though great duets and ensembles. Semmelweis did have just one – Oona, Maria, Klein, Bianka would have interesting ones.

    Semmelweis: our dreams are revolutionary.

  4. Anonymous says:

    There are definitely parallels between the revolution of 1848 and Semmelweis’s fight. But while a great deal of detail is presented about the hospital, childbed fever practically no detail is presented about the political issues in Hungary other than to mention Kossuth and the Carlsbad Decrees. Also, I question the assumption that Semmelweis himself was a revolutionary in his youth. Few in the audience know about 1848.

    I think a better parallelism could be drawn at a higher level:
    1. What good can I do with my life? Kossuth to Semmelweis, Republican to cleanliness
    2. What evil drives me crazy? Kossuth to Semmelweis, ethnic oppression, autocratic rule, suppression of new ideas, neglect of death of mothers, slaughter of dissenters
    3. The thesis/antithesis/synthesis cycle

    There is a comedic aspect to all of this; none of the guys really knew what they were talking about, all grasping at truths they did not understand.
    Bakunin/Kossuth had political panaceas, but no proof.
    Semmelweis had a method that worked but no scientific explanation

    But in the heat of battle, you cannot stand idle!

  5. A title alternative offered by surgeon Warren Widmann: The Revolutionary Death of Childbed Fever.

    What do you think?

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