Skip To Content
The Schmooze

The Notorious RBG’s Next Big Role? Opera Star

Between “Supreme Court Justice,” “Notorious RBG,” and “Namesake of the Praying Mantis lomantis ginsburgæ” Ruth Bader Ginsburg already possesses more intimidatingly cool titles than most of us can ever hope to acquire. She’s about to add another one: Duchess of Krakenthorp.

Ok, that one’s not permanent; next month, Ginsburg will be performing the role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp for the opening night performance of Washington National Opera’s production of Gaetano Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment.” The role is speaking-only, and since the Duchess is notoriously (ha) haughty, the part will give Ginsburg an opportunity to show off her comic chops. She’s not the first woman of note from outside the operatic world to perform the role; her predecessors include actresses Bea Arthur, Mollie Sugden, and Hermione Gringold.

According to the New York Times’s Michael Cooper, the Washington National Opera has announced that some of Ginsburg’s lines have been re-written specifically for her. NPR’s Nina Totenberg reports that Ginsburg will be wearing a custom-created costume, including — no doubt to the meme-making crowd’s delight — “a big, feathery hat suitable for a doyenne or a duchess.”

“Daughter of the Regiment” won’t mark Ginsburg’s operatic debut, either as a performer or an inspiration. She made non-speaking cameo appearances in the Washington National Opera’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” in 1994 and 2009 and in “Die Fliedermaus” in 2003. Her friendship with the late Justice Antonio Scalia — like her, an opera buff; unlike her, a strong ideological conservative — also inspired “Scalia/Ginsburg,” a comic opera by Derrick Wang, first produced in full by the Castleton Festival in 2015.

Ginsburg’s cameo also won’t mark her only appearance with the Washington National Opera this season. This coming March, she’ll join the company’s Artistic Director Francesca Zambello for an on-stage discussion of representations of justice in opera, accompanied by performances from the company’s Domingo-Cafritz young artists.

For now, we’re sure she’s hard at work preparing to step into the Duchess of Krakenthorpe’s formidable shoes. And if a flood of “release the kraken” jokes follow? Well, a little more internet fame couldn’t hurt.

Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture fellow. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter, @TalyaZax

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.