“Could we please make it a constitutional requirement that no one can be sworn into office in the White House or Congress without having first seen Scalia/Ginsburg?”
—Los Angeles Times
* * *
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 the American opera by composer-librettist Derrick Wang that ushered in the era of Supreme Court-themed books, films, and art.
Inspired by the unlikely friendship of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, Scalia/Ginsburg was launched at a special presentation at the Supreme Court of the United States in 2013 before receiving its world premiere production in 2015 at renowned conductor Lorin Maazel’s Castleton Festival.
A sold-out second production followed in 2017 at The Glimmerglass Festival. In 2018, Opera North’s production of Scalia/Ginsburg debuted a new reduced orchestration by the composer. In 2019, OperaDelaware’s opening of Scalia/Ginsburg (in a new production and orchestration) became the highest-grossing performance in the company’s 74-year history. In 2020, Scalia/Ginsburg will receive a new production at Toledo Opera.
Justices Ginsburg and Scalia wrote prefaces to Derrick Wang’s libretto, an early version of which was published in the Columbia Journal of Law and the Arts and excerpted in Justice Ginsburg’s 2016 book My Own Words.
“A perfect…jewel” (Opera Today)
“Brilliant…gorgeous” (DC Theatre Scene)
“Funny, exceedingly clever” (Above the Law)
“A buoyant piece with a deeply serious core” (Süddeutsche Zeitung)
“Laser-accurate…top-notch” (Classical Voice North America)
“Engaging…plays cleverly [with] musical wit” (Wall Street Journal)
“A fiercely entertaining crash course on the U.S. Constitution and the people who uphold it.…Who knew that an opera audience could holler and cheer like it was the Super Bowl?” (Broad Street Review)
“Could we please make it a constitutional requirement that no one can be sworn into office in the White House or Congress without having first seen Scalia/Ginsburg?” (Los Angeles Times)
Click/tap any of the headings below (denoted by the + symbol) for more details.
Scalia/Ginsburg is a one-hour English-language comic opera suitable for both mainstage and intimate venues, with a cast of three singers, flexible scenic demands, and accompaniment by either chamber orchestra or 7-player small ensemble.
Written on a contemporary American topic, composed in a highly accessible musical language, and featuring numerous references to famous operas, Scalia/Ginsburg is intended to delight first-time and long-time opera- and theatergoers alike.
Genre — Comedy
Acts — One act
Language — English
Duration — ca. 60 min.
Cast — 3 principals; no chorus
To inquire about a license to produce Scalia/Ginsburg, visit the Contact page and complete the form “I want to produce ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’”.
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.
Justices Ginsburg and Scalia wrote prefaces to Derrick Wang’s libretto [script], an early version of which was published in 2015 by the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts. Excerpts from the libretto are republished in Justice Ginsburg’s 2016 book My Own Words as the chapter “The Scalia/Ginsburg Opera,” the audiobook version of which is narrated and performed by the composer-librettist from New York’s Steinway Hall.
After the passing of Justice Scalia, the libretto was revised for the 2017 production of Scalia/Ginsburg at The Glimmerglass Festival.
A buddy comedy with an operatic twist, Scalia/Ginsburg reflects the witty style of its subjects by applying “operatic precedent.” Like a Supreme Court opinion, the score of Scalia/Ginsburg is a mosaic of allusions to influential statements of the past.
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.
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.
For more information, listen to Nina Totenberg’s coverage of the Supreme Court presentation — and see Derrick Wang’s TEDxBroadway talk on his journey with Scalia/Ginsburg from the Supreme Court to the stage.
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.
The Wall Street Journal praised the “engaging” opera’s “musical wit.” Opera Today called Scalia/Ginsburg “enchanting” and “a perfect…jewel.” Leonard J. Lehrman, writing for New Music Connoisseur, stated: “Scalia/Ginsburg is a triumph of both citation and original, musical synthesis.”
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?.
Double-bill with Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury (orchestration by Derrick Wang)
April 17 & 19 | 2020
410 Adams St, Toledo, OH 43604
Double-bill with Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury
April 28 & May 3 | 2019
The Grand Opera House
818 N Market St, Wilmington, DE 19801
October 12 & 13 | 2018
Briggs Opera House
5 S Main St, White River Junction, VT 05001
October 14, 2018
Dana Center for the Humanities
Saint Anselm College
100 St Anselm Dr, Manchester, NH 03102
August 4 & 13 | 2017
Alice Busch Opera Theater [Mainstage]
The Glimmerglass Festival
7300 State Highway 80, Cooperstown, NY 13326
Double-bill with Ravel’s L’heure espagnole
July 11, 17, 19 | 2015
7 Castleton Meadows Lane, Castleton, VA 22716
Listings refer to presentations of excerpts (unless otherwise specified).