inspired by the opinions of U.S. Supreme Court Justices
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia
and by the “operatic precedent” of
Händel, Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Verdi, Offenbach, Bizet, Sullivan, Puccini, Strauss, et al.
Scalia/Ginsburg is an American comic opera by composer-librettist Derrick Wang, inspired by the unlikely friendship of two U.S. Supreme Court Justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.
Scalia/Ginsburg asks the question: What would happen if these ideologically opposed judges had to appear before a Higher Power?
Scalia/Ginsburg received its world premiere production in 2015 at the Castleton Festival, founded by renowned conductor Lorin Maazel. Derrick Wang’s libretto [script] to the opera was published by the Columbia Journal of Law and the Arts in 2015. In 2016, excerpts from the libretto were published as a chapter in Justice Ginsburg’s book My Own Words.
Scalia/Ginsburg received its sold-out second production in 2017, in a revised version at The Glimmerglass Festival, the second-largest summer opera festival in the United States. Acclaimed tenor William Burden, celebrated for originating lead roles in major American operas, sang the role of Scalia.
Watch MSNBC’s 90-second introduction to Scalia/Ginsburg:
On June 27, 2013, the day after the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, composer-librettist Derrick Wang appeared at the Supreme Court to present selections from his new comic opera, Scalia/Ginsburg.
National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg, who was in attendance, has the story here:
In his TEDxBroadway talk, Derrick Wang shares his journey with Scalia/Ginsburg from the Supreme Court to the stage:
After being launched at the Supreme Court, excerpts from Scalia/Ginsburg were presented at the Washington National Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, Castleton Festival, Maryland Opera Studio, National Constitution Center, Second Circuit Judicial Conference (co-sponsored by Columbia Law School, with artists from Opera Saratoga), and Stanford Arts Institute & Stanford Law School.
In July 2015, the world premiere production of Scalia/Ginsburg took place at the Castleton Festival, founded by renowned conductor Lorin Maazel in Castleton, Virginia.
Scalia/Ginsburg’s fusion of law and opera was hailed as:
(MSNBC reports that Justice Ginsburg attended and said, “I had a wonderful time. I loved every minute of it.”)
In August 2017, Scalia/Ginsburg received its sold-out second production in a revised version at The Glimmerglass Festival, the second-largest summer opera festival in the United States. Acclaimed tenor William Burden, celebrated for originating lead roles in major American operas, sang the role of Scalia. The final performance was followed by a Q&A with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Scalia/Ginsburg has been featured extensively in worldwide media, including:
and articles and interviews in outlets including:
Scalia/Ginsburg has also been a featured topic on the ABC TV program Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
A 2015 version of the libretto [script] of Scalia/Ginsburg was published in the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, with prefaces by Justices Ginsburg and Scalia themselves. In the spirit of “operatic precedent,” the libretto contains over 200 footnotes by composer-librettist Derrick Wang to legal and musical sources.
In 2016, excerpts from the libretto were published as a chapter in Justice Ginsburg’s book My Own Words. Derrick Wang narrates and performs an adapted version of this chapter in the audiobook.
The libretto was revised for the 2017 production of Scalia/Ginsburg at The Glimmerglass Festival.
July 11, 17, 19 | 2015
Festival Theatre, Castleton Festival
7 Castleton Meadows Lane, Castleton, VA 22716
Listings refer to presentations of excerpts (unless otherwise specified).
What happens when Supreme Court justices go before a Higher Power? In this comic opera, Justices Ginsburg and Scalia must pass through three cosmic trials to secure their freedom. The catch: they may have to agree on the Constitution. Derrick Wang’s Scalia/Ginsburg is a valentine to law and opera, where the law’s leading players go toe-to-toe and trill-to-trill in a (gentle) parody of operatic proportions. Opinions will be offered. Dissents will be delivered. And justice will be sung.
A buddy comedy with an operatic twist, Scalia/Ginsburg reflects the witty style of its subjects by applying the novel technique of “operatic precedent.” Just as a court opinion analyzes previous cases to develop a new decision, the score of Scalia/Ginsburg revels in references to beloved operas, transforming them into new and effervescent commentaries on music and law.
By presenting current legal issues in a concise and entertaining manner, Scalia/Ginsburg aims to reach new audiences for opera. Moreover, by dramatizing the friendship of two justices with (frequently) opposing viewpoints, Scalia/Ginsburg aims to encourage nuanced discussion of issues faced by the Supreme Court. Furthermore, through its playful reference to famous operas of the past, Scalia/Ginsburg appeals to frequent and first-time operagoers alike.
Genre — Comic opera
Acts — One act
Duration — ca. 60 min.*
Cast — 3 principals; no chorus
Language – English
Orchestra – 188.8.131.52/184.108.40.206/timp.perc.pno.hp./str.**
*Depending on audience reactions.
**Standard wind doublings.