Reviews: ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’ World Premiere
Derrick Wang’s comic opera Scalia/Ginsburg (with libretto by the composer) received its world premiere on July 11, 2015 at the Castleton Festival founded by Lorin Maazel, with additional performances on July 17 and 19.
MSNBC’s Irin Carmon covered the sold-out opening night of Scalia/Ginsburg, with a look backstage and a post-performance interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself.
The Los Angeles Times calls Scalia/Ginsburg “funny…sweet and touching” and asks:
Could we please make it a constitutional requirement that no one can be sworn into office in the White House or Congress without first having seen ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’?
Classical Voice North America praises Scalia/Ginsburg’s “laser-accurate” parody and “top-notch” pastiche of operatic precedent:
As a composer, Wang has shown himself a top-notch mimic, and his technique of weaving together pastiches of famous music ties into the historical tradition of operatic parody that has been largely forgotten since the 18th century. Snippets of [musical precedent] are woven ingeniously into the texture in a way reminiscent of Peter Schickele’s P.D.Q. Bach parodies.
The Washington Post calls Scalia/Ginsburg “an affectionate comic opera look at the high court,” noting:
[T]here is much that is charming, clever and amusing in the score.
DC Theatre Scene notes Scalia/Ginsburg’s “beautiful…arias” and “brilliant librettist”:
[The eclectic style] signifies [the composer’s] knowledge and relish of the entire operatic repertoire and marks his celebration of Justice Ginsburg as the genre’s great champion.…It helps that Wang writes — in a stroke of brilliance — the most beautiful and sympathetic arias for Scalia’s character.…[After] a gorgeous aria dedicated to Scalia’s origins…the composer and singer have won the audience to Scalia’s side.…[T]he applause for this Scalia is deafening.
Legal website Above the Law highlights Scalia/Ginsburg’s “funny, exceedingly clever libretto”:
“Derrick Wang has managed to create a coherent narrative that successfully integrates huge amounts of constitutional theory (originalism versus living constitutionalism), legal scholarship, and landmark SCOTUS opinions.…Some of the rhymes — e.g., ‘trainer’/‘Boehner’ — are nothing short of inspired. The ending is dramatically satisfying but also offers a serious, inspiring, and heartwarming message about how the Court needs both a Justice Ginsburg and a Justice Scalia (instead of just making Justice Scalia the bad guy, which is what I expected going into the opera).…The audience laughed often and loudly throughout the show, and when the opera concluded, it received an enthusiastic standing ovation.”
The Wall Street Journal interviewed Justice Ginsburg at the premiere of Scalia/Ginsburg:
Mr. Wang, who wrote for the Hasty Pudding Theatricals while an undergraduate at Harvard, has loaded the piece with musical jokes and the libretto with clever passages from the characters’ legal opinions and public remarks. With a torrent of new opinions issued last month, he quickly updated the libretto to include the latest Scalia [dissents]….
Although there were no new Ginsburg lyrics, the justice took no offense.
“I don’t have lines like ‘argle-bargle’ and ‘applesauce,’” she said.
It wasn’t any of the legal or even musical references that most touched the 82-year old jurist. It was Mr. Wang’s homage to Justice Ginsburg’s late husband, Marty Ginsburg, a tax attorney who taught himself to cook French cuisine after discovering his wife was no expert in the kitchen.
“I was weeping at the end, when they brought out the frozen lime soufflé,” Justice Ginsburg said, referring to Mr. Ginsburg’s signature dessert.
VIDEO: Other audience members reacted as well, naming favorite moments that included the aria “He built stairs” and the duet “We are different. We are one.”
- Mark Swed, ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’ opera underscores how opposites can be in harmony, Los Angeles Times (July 13, 2015)
- Charles T. Downey, Ghosts, Ginsburg Given Justice As Summer Delights, Classical Voice North America (July 22, 2015)
- Susan Galbraith, Scalia/Ginsburg opera debuts at Castleton Festival, DC Theatre Scene (July 14, 2015)
- Philip Kennicott, ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’: An affectionate comic opera look at the high court, The Washington Post (July 12, 2015)
- David Lat, ATL Opera Review: Scalia/Ginsburg, Above the Law (July 16, 2015)
- Jess Bravin, Justice Ginsburg’s Spin on a Supreme Opera, ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’, The Wall Street Journal (Washington Wire) (July 13, 2015)