Ruth Bader Ginsburg loved opera and opera loved her back


She love Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung”, and its finale, the scene of immolation. We had a lot of conversations about Brünnhilde and why it took a woman to save the world. That’s what she said: only a woman could do it; only a woman could change the course of history. She always liked plays where the woman was the protagonist.

Her life was about understanding people’s stories, and that’s what we do. When you look at her big decisions – like the father who was trying to get alimony because he was widowed, and at that point you could only get alimony if you were widowed – those kinds of cases that she made his career. are the subject of the opera. The outsider, the poorly served character: Manon Lescaut, Violetta, women who have to fight their way to the top to survive. They were related to his sense of right and wrong and what a human way of life is.

After “Fidelio”, we stayed very close. In DC, I even put her in a speaker role in “The Girl in the Regiment”. I would say it was someone who liked “ABC” – “Aida,“ Bohème ”and“ Carmen ”- but also more sophisticated and complex works. She came to every performance of Wagner’s “Ring” that we did in Washington. And she often came both to the dress rehearsal and the first representation of things, then also the last representation.

When her husband Marty died, she came more often. She would always bring someone with her, sometimes another judge. Over the last few years she would appear and walk down the aisle and everyone was starting to clap. I think opera gave him an incredible escape. Especially after Marty’s death, it allowed her mind to go where it needed to go to rest from the incredible work she was doing for all of us. If the tireless pursuit of justice is your day job, it pays to spend time at Café Momus in “La Bohème” at night.

She came to Glimmerglass for nine summers and did a program called “Law and Opera with RBG”. We had had so many conversations about how in many operas there was a contract. Which opera house has no contract or fault? And so we were doing opera scenes and she was talking about the legal side. We were doing the Seguidilla of “Carmen” and she explained that it was a plea bargain.

We did “Scalia / Ginsburg” to Glimmerglass, about their friendship, and before Scalia died there were a lot of great performances, when we had opening nights in Washington, and Scalia was sitting in a row. side of the aisle and she was sitting on the other. They would be nice, joculars and opera lovers, and you knew that the next day they would give opposing opinions.


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