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A Tempo: Musical Work Pays Homage to Semmelweis, Handwashing Champion

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Long before Ignác Semmelweis became an almost household name amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the story of the 19th-century obstetrician who was the first to grasp the importance of hand-washing as a health precaution had caught the attention of Raymond Lustig. A published researcher in molecular biology before pursuing his Master’s and Doctorate degrees in composition at Juilliard, Lustig had been fascinated with the story of the doctor whose theory that women were dying after giving birth because the doctors weren't washing their hands was ridiculed by the medical establishment of the time. He first wrote a music-theater work about Semmelweis with writer Matthew Doherty more than a decade ago, and it finally had its premiere in 2018, co-produced by the Budapest Operetta Theatre and Bartok Plusz Opera Festival as part of the festivities celebrating the 200th anniversary of  Semmelweis' birth. The video of that performance will be streamed throughout the month of May.

A Tempo host Rachel Katz this Saturday (5/2 at 7 pm) will speak with Lustig about the work and the relevence of Semmelweis' story today.