'Scalia/Ginsburg' Opera Turns High Court Into High Art

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 10, 2015 1:57 PM

One of the more curious parts of the Supreme Court is that the venom and vitriol that can sneak into Supreme Court opinions often belies the close friendships between the Justices. Indeed, some of the most ideologically opposed Justices maintain the closest connection. We're talking, of course, about Nino Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The friendship between the two, forged through their conflicts on the bench is, well, almost operatic. Now it is literally operatic, memorialized by composer and law school grad Derrick Wang in the one act opera "Scalia/Ginsburg." The piece debuts this Saturday at the Castleton Festival in Virginia.

It's Not Over 'Til the Originalist Sings

Scalia and Ginsburg are both opera fans -- and no stranger to dramatics, on stage or off. Scalia, of course, has built his public persona around his bombastic decisions and theatrical dissents. Most recently, he accused his fellow Justices, Ginsburg included, of destroying democracy by protecting marriage equality, throwing in an oblique reference to Hitler for good measure.

Ginsburg, a bit more reserved in her writing, nonetheless has quite the dramatic life, having shepherded her husband through cancer during law school, while becoming the first woman on the Harvard Law Review, and simultaneously raising her daughter. After that, she took a break to found the Women's Rights Project, become one of the nation's premier feminist litigators and, I dunno, slaying Huns in her spare time.

Not Quite Wagner's 'Ring Cycle'

"Scalia/Ginsburg" might be one of the most unexpected opera's since the San Francisco Opera adapted Stephen King's novel "Dolores Claiborne" into a two-act in 2013. It's not unprecedented, however. The composer John Adams began his career, and energized modern American opera, with "Nixon in China," an opera about -- you guessed it -- Nixon's 1972 meeting with Mao.

"Scalia/Ginsburg" doesn't seem to be taking itself too seriously, either, despite its influences from Mozart, Verdi, and other masters. In the opera, the two Justices are imprisoned by a talking statue and forced to work together through three challenges in order to gain their freedom. It's one of the few operas where the composer has cited almost every line -- to a Supreme Court case, of course.

Can't join Ginsburg in Virginia for the debut? Don't worry, the opera is being streamed online tomorrow, July 11th. Don't miss it!

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