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Subject: Glimmerglass' new version of Scalia/Ginsburg will really get you going (8-13-17)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 16 Aug 2017 16:35:00 -0400
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One of this summer's bonuses at Glimmerglass was the rewrite of Derrick Wang's three person opera Scalia/Ginsburg which has a completely different ending since the death of the justice. What a treat to have Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bade Ginsburg in the house and to take questions for quite a while as well as speak on their relationship after the show. Needless to say, she received another rousing standing ovation as she took her seat before the one hour work began:


Scalia-William Burden

Ginsburg-Mary Beth Nelson

Commentator-Brent Michael Smith


Conductor-Jesse Leong

Director-Brenna Corner

Pianist-Kyle Naig

Set-James Rotondo III

Costumes-Sophie S. Schneider

The set was in front of the curtain(Porgy had just finished!) with two high backed cushy red chairs, a small table piled with books and some on the floor.

The work is divided into sections which I shall also note:

1)"The Justices are blind!" is Scalia's rant as he comes down the aisle and is agitated over what the Supreme Court has done "the Constitution says absolutely nothing about this..." is sung in hysterically funny coloratura. We soon realize that Mr. Wang's style is largely "borrowed" from other sources as Scalia sings in the tune of "The First Noel" "We all know well, what the fathers did say..." and goes on to rant "Oh Ruth can you read, you're aware of the text" (to the National Anthem) as he stares at the empty seat next to him.

2)The Commentator comes down the aisle looking like a cross between Sarastro and a hippie in  a white gown, golden necklace and knee length vest robe chanting "Antonin, I come to judge you..." of course to the Commendatore's lines in Don Giovanni. We are treated to lines from Scalia such as "Pure vendetta" (instead of La vendetta) as he is told he must undergo three trials to gain his freedom.

3)RBG enters from a ladder in the orchestra pit again to more applause and the Commentator asks how she got in as he has sealed all the doors "No man can leave or enter," to which she immediately quips back that she is a woman.  She pours wine for the two justices and sings, "Oh, Nino can you tell me what's wrong, except my opinion, cause we don't have that long." The Commentator sets up a folding chair at the side of the stage and proceeds to open a box of candy, as if at the movies.

4)Scalia and Ginsburg have a duet "Always 'liberal'" quoting different opinions as Scalia quotes "E strano" (from Traviata) instead singing "What hubris?" to which RBG responds in Habanera-tune "How many times must I tell you Justice Scalia?"

The quotes were becoming too fast and furious to count them all!

5)"You are searching in vain(for a bright-line solution" had RBG in a musical theater spotlight and we discover that one of the trials that Scalia must undergo is to defend his legal views.

6)He does so quoting "Mi chiamano Mimi" with "My friends call me Nino and you can call me Justice Scalia..."

In this section, "He built stairs" Mr. Burden really used  amazing dramatic tenor to great effect as he tells the story of how his father came

to America and made a home and family. He ends with "We shall rise; anyway that's my view and it happens to be correct" again directly quoting Boheme; RBG has fallen asleep.

7)RBG has a section on women's rights, ERA and equal pay, "You sir, are wrong here..." and sings "I am hurt, hurt, hurt" quoting the Queen of the Night. as she rails against men while the Commentator starts to pour a glass of wine, seemingly bored, but she grabs it from him. "You may think you hold the ball, but you're laying in my court."

The Commentator insists she leave as the trial is Scalia's, but she insists on staying to help defend her friend.

8)The trial of silence has the Commentator goading them both and at one point Scalia yells when he brings up the Bush v/ Gore election case. RBG speaks as well as says that the Commentator must condemn them both.

9)A grandiose duet, "We are different, we are one..." with American undertones reminded me of Lincoln's Portrait as the Commentator pulled out a hankie and the

10)Finale ensued with him saying they have now passed the third trial (bonding). He explains that this was really "a dream" and that Scalia has really died, to which responds, "We live and work and then we're gone." In one final turn the two judges are given the chance to sing opera arias as the Commentator leads Scalia off into a bright light and asks if RBG will come. She sings, "You're still wrong..." and drapes a black mourning curtain on Scalia's chair as the work ends.


It is VERY funny, very operatic and quite ingenious and a great way to enjoy an hour for sure. It's not a great work, but it is so enjoyable in the light of most operas today being quite serious. The three singers were all superb and there is no question that Ms. Nelson and Mr. Burden did their homework well and had the characterizations spot on.


During the Q&A afterwards, the real RBG noted that "when Derrick (the composer) came to Scalia and me---I said wonderful, but he (Scalia) said he has a First Amendment right to do it...."

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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