NEWS: In the 2018–2019 season, Scalia/Ginsburg receives new productions by Opera North and OperaDelaware. For tickets, see below.

* * *

We are different. We are one.

Scalia/Ginsburg

American comic opera in one act
by Derrick Wang
Libretto by the composer

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.

 Illustration by David Parkins

Illustration by David Parkins

Scalia/Ginsburg is an American comic opera by composer-librettist Derrick Wang about the unlikely friendship of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.

Launched at a special presentation at the Supreme Court of the United States in 2013, Scalia/Ginsburg received its world premiere production in 2015 at renowned conductor Lorin Maazel’s Castleton Festival, followed by a sold-out second production in 2017 at The Glimmerglass Festival.

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

In 2018, the premiere recording of the aria “You Are Searching in Vain for a Bright-Line Solution” was released on the Cedille Records album Notorious RBG in Song.

In the 2018–2019 season, Scalia/Ginsburg receives new productions by Opera North and OperaDelaware.

TICKETS:


“A perfect…jewel” (Opera Today)

Brilliant…gorgeous” (DC Theatre Scene

Funny, exceedingly clever” (Above the Law

Tuneful…accessible…smart…a triumph” (The American Interest)

“A cheerful piece with a deeply serious core” (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

“Laser-accuratetop-notch” (Classical Voice North America

“Engaging…plays cleverly [with] musical wit” (Wall Street Journal)

“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)


SUMMARY

 

 

Click/tap any of the headings below (denoted by the symbol) for more details.

+ Information for Producers & Presenters

Scalia/Ginsburg is a one-hour English-language comic opera suitable for both mainstage and intimate venues, with a cast of three singers, minimal scenic demands, and accompaniment by either Gilbert & Sullivan-sized orchestra or 7-player chamber 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.

DETAILS:

GenreComedy
ActsOne act
LanguageEnglish
Durationca. 60 min.
Cast3 principals; no chorus

  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, soprano or high mezzo-soprano
    • Soprano: (opt. G#3–) B3–C#6 (opt. D6, E6)
    • Mezzo-soprano: G#3–B5
  • Justice Antonin Scalia, tenor
    • (opt. Bb2–) C3–Bb4 (opt. C5)
  • The Commentator, bass-baritone
    • (opt. D2–) Gb2–Eb4

Orchestra:

  • [World Premiere (Castleton Festival, 2015) (50 players) — not currently available]
    • [2(pic).2(ca).2(bcl).2(cbn) / 2.2.3.0 / timp.2perc.pf(kbd).hp. / str.]
  • Orchestra (min. 23 players) [as of 2019]
    • 1(pic).1.2(bcl).1 / 2.2.2.0 / timp(perc).pf(kbd) / str.(min. 3.2.2.2.1)
  • Chamber Ensemble (7 players) [as of 2018]
    • 0.0.0.0 / 0.0.0.0 / timp(perc).pf(kbd) / str. (min. 1.1.1.1.1)

To inquire about a license to produce Scalia/Ginsburg, visit the Contact page and complete the form “I want to produce ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’”.

+ The Plot (in pictures)

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.

+ The Script (i.e. Libretto)

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.

+ The Score / Musical Numbers

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.

MUSICAL NUMBERS:

  • “The Justices are blind!” (Scalia)
    • Originalist rage aria, in the style of Händel.
  • “Dissent!” (Commentator)
    • Patter aria, in the style of Rossini and Gilbert & Sullivan.
  • “Oh, Nino” (Ginsburg, Scalia)
    • Bel canto cavatina, in the style of Bellini.
  • “Always ‘liberal’” (Scalia, Ginsburg)
    • Competing insertion arias from Verdi and Mozart, in the spirit of Offenbach.
  • “You are searching in vain (for a bright-line solution)” (Ginsburg)
    • Aria and variations in evolving styles, including opera, jazz, and gospel-pop.
  • “He built stairs” (Scalia)
    • Lyric aria, in the style of Puccini (but American).
  • “You, sir, are wrong here” (Ginsburg)
    • Sinfonia concertante da camera, in the style of Mozart & the Mendelssohns.
  • “Withdrawn!” (Commentator)
  • “We are different, we are one” (Ginsburg, Scalia)
  • Finale (Commentator, Ginsburg, Scalia)
    • Trilingual trio, featuring Puccini & R. Strauss.
 
 
 
 

+ “Supreme Court opinions” on Scalia/Ginsburg



BACKSTORY

 
 

+ The Supreme Court of the United States

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.

 
 

+ The World Premiere

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:

  • “Brilliant…gorgeous” (DC Theatre Scene)
  • “Funny, exceedingly clever” (Above the Law)
  • “Laser-accurate…top-notch” (Classical Voice North America)
  • “Tuneful…accessible…smart…a triumph” (The American Interest)

(MSNBC reports that Justice Ginsburg attended and said, “I had a wonderful time. I loved every minute of it.”)

 

Get the inside scoop on Derrick Wang's new opera Scalia/Ginsburg from Justice Ginsburg herself! #OperaConf

Posted by OPERA America on Wednesday, May 13, 2015
 
 
 

+ The 2017 Version

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.”

 
 

+ Press

Scalia/Ginsburg has been featured extensively in worldwide media, including:

  • the original NPR exclusive at the Supreme Court by Nina Totenberg,
  • a front-page article in The Wall Street Journal,
  • a three-page illustrated feature in the Süddeutsche Zeitung [Germany’s largest national subscription daily newspaper],

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?.

 
 

PRODUCTIONS

+ OperaDelaware (2019)

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

+ Opera North (2018)

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

CAST

  • Justice Ginsburg — Emily Misch
  • Justice Scalia — Derek Jackenheimer
  • The Commentator — William Meinert

PRODUCTION

  • Conductor — Louis Burkot
  • Director — Audrey Chait

+ The Glimmerglass Festival (2017)

August 4 & 13 | 2017
Alice Busch Opera Theater [Mainstage]
The Glimmerglass Festival
7300 State Highway 80, Cooperstown, NY 13326

CAST

  • Justice Ginsburg — Mary Beth Nelson
  • Justice Scalia — William Burden, Artist in Residence
  • The Commentator — Brent Michael Smith

PRODUCTION

  • Conductor — Jesse Leong
  • Director — Brenna Corner
  • Scenery — James F. Rotondo III
  • Costumes — Sophie S. Schneider
  • Lighting — Peter Mitchell and S. Stolnack
  • Pianist/Principal Coach — Kyle Naig
  • Stage Manager — Dustin West

+ Castleton Festival (World Premiere, 2015)

Double-bill with Ravel’s L’heure espagnole
July 11, 17, 19 | 2015
Festival Theatre
Castleton Festival
7 Castleton Meadows Lane, Castleton, VA 22716

CAST

  • Justice Ginsburg — Ellen Wieser
  • Justice Scalia — John Overholt
  • The Commentator — Adam Cioffari

PRODUCTION

  • Conductor — Salvatore Percacciolo
  • Stage Director — Maria Tucci
  • Scenic Designer — Julia Noulin-Mérat
  • Lighting Designer — Tláloc López-Watermann
  • Costume Designer — Lara de Bruijn
  • Wig & Makeup Designer — Kellen Easen
  • Stage Manager — Joan Llaneza
  • Assistant Stage Manager — Danielle Ranno

+ Other

Listings refer to presentations of excerpts (unless otherwise specified).

  • Supreme Court of the United States (June 2013)
    • Justice Ginsburg — Kimberly Christie
    • Justice Scalia — Peter Scott Drackley
    • Speaker and Pianist — Derrick Wang
  • Maryland Opera Studio [reading] (February 2014)
    • Justice Ginsburg — Suzanne Karpov
    • Justice Scalia — Logan Webber
    • The Commentator — Ethan Lee Greene
  • Washington National Opera (April 2014)
    • Justice Ginsburg — Jacqueline Echols
    • Justice Scalia — Patrick O’Halloran
    • The Commentator — Wei Wu
  • National Constitution Center [private event] (April 2014)
  • Second Circuit Judicial Conference (June 2014)
    [co-sponsored by Columbia Law School, with artists from Opera Saratoga]
    • Justice Ginsburg — Jacquelyn Matava
    • Justice Scalia — George Ross Somerville
    • Speaker and Pianist — Derrick Wang
  • Castleton Festival (June 2014)
    • Justice Ginsburg — Jessica Blau
    • Justice Scalia — John Overholt
    • Speaker and Pianist — Derrick Wang
  • The Glimmerglass Festival (July 2014)
    • Justice Ginsburg — Jacqueline Echols
  • Stanford Arts Institute & Stanford Law School [lecture-recital and faculty colloquium] (May 2015)
    • Justice Ginsburg — Suzanne Karpov
    • Justice Scalia — Peter Scott Drackley
    • Speaker and Pianist — Derrick Wang
  • Stony Brook University (September 2016)
    • Justice Ginsburg — Catherine Sandstedt
    • Justice Scalia — Jeremy Little
    • Speaker and Pianist — Derrick Wang
  • Judicial–Congressional Dialogue at the Library of Congress (December 2017)
    • Justice Ginsburg — Mary Beth Nelson
    • Justice Scalia — Peter Scott Drackley
    • Speaker and Pianist — Derrick Wang
  • Bipartisan House Chiefs of Staff Initiative at the Library of Congress (July 2018)
    • Justice Ginsburg — Mary Beth Nelson
    • Justice Scalia — Peter Scott Drackley
    • Speaker and Pianist — Derrick Wang
  • Baltimore Concert Opera [concert performance] (April 2019)

 

Rathbun Visiting Fellow 2017, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, shares the background of Derrick Wang’s opera Scalia/Ginsburg while in conversation with The Rev. Professor Jane Shaw, Dean for Religious Life, on February 6, 2017 in Stanford Memorial Church.

 
 Illustration by Jeff Dionise / ABA Journal

Illustration by Jeff Dionise / ABA Journal