If all goes according to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s plan, we’ll be seeing her on the bench next term. And if all goes according to Derrick Wang’s plan, we’ll also be seeing her on stage. To be precise, it won’t be the Jewish Justice herself in the spotlight, but an opera performer playing Ginsburg.
Wang, a musician and recent graduate of the University of Maryland’s Carey School of Law, is composing an opera titled “Scalia/Ginsburg,” based on Justice Ginsburg and Justice Antonin Scalia’s legal opinions. Somehow, when Wang read the opinions, he heard music — despite (or possibly, because of) the passionate positions Scalia and Ginsburg have taken from opposing wings of the Court.
“I realized this is the most dramatic thing I’ve ever read in law school… and I started to hear music — a rage aria about the Constitution,” Wang told NPR about Scalia’s dissents. “And then, in the midst of this roiling rhetoric, counterpoint, as Justice Ginsburg’s words appeared to me — a beacon of lyricism with a steely strength and a fervent conviction all their own. And I said to myself, ‘This is an opera.’”
It turns out that irrespective of their views on constitutional interpretation, Scalia and Ginsburg are good friends who happen to share a love of opera. (Ginsburg often lectures on the intersection of opera and the law.) When Wang requested the Justices’ permission to use their words for his opera’s libretto, they both happily gave it. However, they pointed out that in view of the First Amendment, there was actually no need for Wang to ask their permission.