Opera houses across the US dimmed their lights Friday in honor of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose passion for the art form was born in a Brooklyn school gym in 1944 when she was 11 years old.
“My aunt, who taught English in a middle school in Brooklyn…took me to a high school where there was an abbreviated performance of ‘La Gioconda.’ I was just blown away by it. I’d never heard such glorious music,” she said in an interview with Sirius XM. “I thought then, how grand it would be if one fine day I could be on stage during an opera performance. It seemed an impossible dream because, alas, I cannot sing.”
But her dream came true in 2016 when she had a cameo role in the Washington National Opera’s production of Gaetano Donizetti’s “The Daughter of the Regiment.” Ginsburg donned a shimmering green taffeta and tulle gown in her role as Duchess of Krakenthorp, whose dialogue was partly based on her own speeches at the Supreme Court.
Ginsburg, who was 87 when she died of complications from pancreatic cancer Friday, often attended opera with her tax lawyer husband Martin Ginsburg as well as Antonin Scalia, her fellow Supreme Court Justice and ideological foe who was also a good friend.
The two Justices were immortalized in their own opera in 2015 when Derrick Wang, a composer and constitutional law student, premiered his opera “Scalia/Ginsburg” at the Castleton Festival. Wang said he started composing the comic opera when he studied the justices’ dissenting opinions.
“I started to hear music — a rage aria about the constitution,” he said during a TED Talk in 2016, adding he was also inspired by their very close friendship.
Although she was pleased to be immortalized in her own opera, said Wang, Ginsburg often said her most emotional operatic experience took place at Harvard University’s commencement in May 2011, when she was given an honorary degree. Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who was also being honored by the university, handed her the degree, singing the end of the conferral.
“I tend to be consumed by my work. … I’m thinking about it when I go to sleep,” Ginsburg told Pandora Radio. “But when I go to the opera, I leave all the briefs on the shelf and just enjoy the great performances.”
New York Post
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