The English site is still under construction, but below you can already find the English information on the production Dolhuys Kermis (A Madhouse Fair), that includes as well English spoken performances.

Some shortcuts already:
For trailers and pictures click here.
For the dates and tickets for the English spoken performances click here.
For the complete list of performances click here.

Dolhuys Kermis - A Madhouse Fair - 24 may to 2 june


English spoken performances included!

A series of sold-out performances. Listed as one of the year’s Top 5 performances and concerts by NRC Handelsblad. ‘Wildly’ enthusiastic audience response. In 2012, OPERA2DAY revived a centuries-old tradition with its Dolhuys Kermis (‘A Madhouse Fair’), transforming it into surprising and moving musical theatre.  Now, due to the enormous success, the performance is returning for one more run. In the unique setting of the former The Hague NEBO Hospital in Scheveningen, the audience is led past melancholics performing the most beautiful and amazing laments from around the 1600s. The singers are from the Vox Luminis ensemble, which recently received a Gramophone Award for their latest CD.

The Dolhuys Kermis: amazing historical tradition revives!

A guided tour of the local psychiatric hospital, during which you can view and even touch the patients. Gawp at your fellow humans - for a price. Unimaginable? Yet, from the 15th to 18th centuries, this actually occurred at the so-called madhouses during the annual ‘Madhouse Fair’. In 2012, OPERA2DAY revived this astonishing historical phenomenon in a collaboration with vocal ensemble Vox Luminis. In the former NEBO Hospital building on Scheveningseweg in The Hague, visitors embarked on a musical journey past a series of heart-rending portraits. The combination of vocal masterpieces with engaging theatre in such an unusual setting was a big hit with both the press and the public. The NRC newspaper gave Dolhuys Kermis four stars, writing, ‘A gorgeous mix of site-specific and musical theatre ... Opera2day proves it is possible to build spectacular scenes with the simplest of means.’ In that same paper, Dolhuys Kermis was named one of the top five best performances of 2012: ‘Successful site-specific theatre, done sparingly: Baroque lunatic scenes in a former institution.’ All of the performances sold out. That prompted OPERA2DAY to do everything in its power this year to bring the Dolhuys Kermis back one more time for a series of on-site performances.  

Laments in the madhouse

Not that long ago, anything outside of what was then considered desirable behaviour was deemed ‘crazy’: from the mentally ill, epilepsy patients, the mentally handicapped, agitators and addicts to elderly dementia patients. Their symptoms were seen as forms of ‘melancholy’, which was tantamount to lunacy. That same melancholy inspired composers such as Monteverdi, Carissimi and Fontana to produce some of their most magnificent and striking compositions. Most of these were in the form of ‘lamenti’: laments with an unabashed dramatic and expressive style. Many of these compositions are constructed around a repeated descending bass line that puts the listener in a melancholy mood.

Star performers, gorgeous musical numbers!

At the Dolhuys Kermis, visitors are literally led through the most beautiful, miraculous lamenti from around the 1600s. They are swept away by the love-melancholy in Monteverdi’s fabulous Lamento della ninfa. They watch, to music by Carissimi, an isolated patient who thinks she is Mary, Queen of Scots, confined in her death cell; they are introduced to the humorous Lamento dell’impotente; and they meet a young Madre Ebrea in the kitchen, suffering from post-natal depression avant la lettre. The OPERA2DAY doctors elucidate the symptoms, based on the somewhat astounding preconceptions of the 17th century.
The melancholy singers are from the Vox Luminis vocal ensemble, who are currently a huge international hit. Their latest CD was recently awarded Record of the Year 2012 by the prestigious British music magazine Gramophone! The troupe of actors is led by René M. Broeders, the medical superintendent acting as your host. OPERA2DAY’s Baroque ensemble provides the musical accompaniment, conducted by Hernán Schvartman, and the stage director is Serge van Veggel, who also developed the concept.

Also in English…

The performance, which combines vocal music with spoken word, will be presented in English a few times, making it accessible to international audiences, expats and international students.

More info

For trailers and pictures click here.
For the dates and tickets for the English spoken performances click here.
For the complete list of performances click here.
For more background information: see below.
Location: The former NEBO Hospital building, Scheveningseweg 104-106, The Hague. The building does not have any elevators. This performance is not recommended for people who have difficulty walking up and down stairs.



Lamenti: the new Prozac

In the spring of 2012, a so called Madhouse Fair took place in The Hague, the Netherlands. This performance by the Dutch opera- and music theatre company OPERA2DAY was in collaboration with the award-winning vocal ensemble Vox Luminis. The Madhouse Fair was a popular form of entertainment in the 17th and 18th century. Rather like going an attraction park today,  vistors could buy a ticket to 'watch mad people' in psychiatric institutions on a special open day, once or twice a year.

OPERA2DAY translated this idea into a project in which the audience makes a tour of musical laments from the Baroque era, complemented with theatrical elements that were based on medical-historical texts from around the same period: 1600. An intimate and moving performance took shape: an event that was sometimes confronting and sometimes amusing.    

Laments from the Baroque era are central in this project. Next to masterpieces by for example Monteverdi, we play repertoire that is less well known and hardly ever heard. On top of that, the musical construction shows the development of vocal music in this particular genre of the late 16th century polyphonic style, via the recitative style from around 1600 until the recitatives with aria's from the mid 17th century. The music is given a staged performance, something that is not often done. In addition, they are shown within a context of the psychiatric ideas of the British scientist and writer Robert Burton and described in his book The Anatomy of Melancholy, that was writen in the decades around 1600.

With the performance, we also wanted to resonate with contemporary society.  Currently about 10% of women and 5% of men in the UK take anti-depressants on a daily basis. What we call depression today Robert Burton called Melancholia in the 17th century. The music of the Lamenti has something to offer to contemporary men and women, because it sprung out of the exact same source. Moreover, we'd like to mirror contemporary society with the phenomenon of the Madhouse Fair. The phenomenon evokes important questions: 'how do you deal with difference between people’ and ‘what is our definition of crazy anyway? ‘

The project was received with great praise by our audience, the press and the performers. All the performances were sold out, with people queuing to get in on standby tickets. The cast and crew felt like they were part of a special event. One of Holland’s leading newspapers NRC Handelsblad wrote: 'OPERA2DAY shows us how to create beautiful scenes with minimal means' and the performance was listed in a top five of best music performances of 2012, in the selection of critic Floris Don. The opera  website Place d'Opera wrote: 'it is a well developed site specific performance in which all is done to make the audience feel and experience how the confrontation between the 'normal' outer world and insanity works’. Many visitors mentioned the performance as one of the best of the entire season.

In May/June of 2013, a reprise will take place in The Hague.

The Madhouse Fair

Imagine. We come into a psychiatric institution. For a fixed fee we can get a guided tour of the institution and visit different patients. It is necessary for the institution as a way of generating extra income and curiousy citizens come in the thousands. We are taken past a series of rooms and halls in which we see patients possessed by delusions. A woman in a straight-jacket thinks she is Queen Mary Stuart on death row. A man sees the decay of a building as a sign of God. In the kitchen, we see a woman determined to eat her own child and a man embarrassed by his impotence. The similarity of all these patients: they sing.   

In Dutch, we call a tour through a sanatorium a 'Dolhuys Kermis' (literally translated as a 'Madhouse Fair'). A madhouse or insane asylum was the name for an institution for the mentally ill from the 15th until the 18th century. Everything that was not common behavior (or eligible behavior), was often seen as “insane”: mentally ill, epileptics, mentally challenged people, people showing asocial behavior, rioters, addicts and people suffering from dementia. The chance they would come out of a madhouse alive was small. At the very start most of the income of these madhouses was generated with the madhouse fairs. For only a dime you could see the residents and even touch them. In Utrecht the madhouse fair took place on the first Tuesday after eastern.    

The diseases that would appear in the so called madhouse could all be placed under the denominator 'melancholy'. Multiple forms of melancholy were described by the British scientist and literary Robert Burton (1577-1640). His brick thick lifework The Anatomy of Melancholy contains surprising and funny descriptions of this disease. During his entire life, Burton collected different types and variations of melancholy out of real life and literature. With Burton, insanity and melancholy often coincide and regularly leads to delusions. Research from 1944 showed Burton as a precursor to Freud. In Burtons theory it is one of the four humors (black bile: Gk. Melan chole) that causes an 'unconscious' control over the spirit of a human being. A major part of the book is devoted to the melancholy that is caused by love. His work – in its time of scientific value – is nowadays considered literary and even comical.       



In the early baroque period there was a predilection to render the different kinds of melancholy, especially those regarding love. There is a rich amount of madrigals and lamenti in which the different 'humors' are presented to us. There are lamenti about queens, tormented lovers and kinds of furies. Composers like Vecchi, Carissimi, Monteverdi and Fontana – all Robert Burton contemporaries – wrote little masterpieces for solo-singers with a continuo-accompaniment, but also for polyphonic singing. This music still moves us directly. 

On the programme:



Artistic Management
Lionel Meunier (Artistic manager Vox Luminis)
Hernán Schvartzman (Musical manager OPERA2DAY)
Serge van Veggel (Artistic manager OPERA2DAY)           
Concept development and compilation
Serge van Veggel
Vox Luminis:
Sopraan - Lauren Armishaw, Michaela Riener, Zsuzsi Tóth
Counter-tenor - Jan Kullmann
Tenor - Robert Buckland, Raffaele Giordani
Bas - Lionel Meunier
Medical director - René M. Broeders
Porter - Pim van Alten
Patient Patrick - Martin Snip
Baroque ensemble OPERA2DAY
Viola da gamba - Catherine Bahn, Ricardo Rodríguez Miranda
Harpsichord - Jorge López-Escribano, Claudio A. Barduco Ribeiro
Theorbo - Christian Gutiérrez, Jan Čižmář
Stage director - Serge van Veggel
Conductor - Hernán Schvartzman
Texts - René M. Broeders and Pim van Alten
Scenography - Herbert Janse, Dymph Boss, Felipe González Cabezas, Roelof Pothuis
Light - Uri Rapaport
Costumes - Joost van Wijmen    

Dolhuys Kermis was made possible in part through the generous support of:
The City of The Hague
The Dutch Performing Arts Fund (FPK)
The Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Het Kersjes Fonds
Fonds 1818
Thanks to: Vestia/Ceres

'In Den Haag voltrekt zich een waar mirakel'