Opera Philadelphia


10 Days in a Madhouse is a psychological opera that plays with notions of madness. Inspired by the life of Nellie Bly, a trailblazing reporter who in 1887 faked madness in order to be admitted to Blackwell’s Asylum for the Insane and to report in conditions from the inside. Once inside the madhouse, Nellie encountered women whose poverty, race, and grief over past traumas had been mistaken for madness. Nellie herself immediately dropped her “mad act” – troublingly, none of the medical staff noticed or were able to identify her as sane. When Nellie was released from the asylum after 10 days, she penned a famed exposé detailing the appalling conditions in which the madwomen were kept. Nellie claimed that the conditions were so poor and the mistreatment of the mentally ill was so egregious that they could drive a sane person mad.

The opera opens on a madwoman who, according to the asylum’s Doctor, is paranoiac and psychotic. She hears voices, fabricates threats, and imagines she is someone she’s not. Nellie, seen through the lens of one of the asylum’s leading medical professionals, Doctor Blackwell, is mad. But is she? 

10 Days in a Madhouse exposes – as Nellie Bly herself did – the feminization of madness, the bias of doctors against the sanity of women, and how the systems and social structures in which women find themselves induce madness.

MapThe Wilma Theater

Dates are Sep 2023.

Thu, Sep 21 7:00 p.m.
Sat, Sep 23 2:00 p.m.
Tue, Sep 26 7:00 p.m.
Thu, Sep 28 7:00 p.m.
Sat, Sep 30 2:00 p.m.

Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

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