Coda

Liner Notes: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

by Louise T. Guinther.

Liner Notes Ginsburg hdl 417
From Justice to Duchess: Ginsburg onstage at WNO
© Scott Suchman/WNO

The Basics  

BROOKLYN NATIVE Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed Associate Supreme Court Justice by President Bill Clinton in 1993, is the second woman ever named to that position. A member of the court’s liberal wing, she nonetheless enjoyed a close friendship with conservative justice Antonin Scalia, with whom she shared a lasting passion for opera. Their relationship has been depicted in Derrick Wang’s comic opera Scalia/Ginsburg, due at Glimmerglass this summer.

OPERA NEWS: What kind of musical training have you had?

RUTH BADER GINSBURG: I took piano lessons from age eight to age sixteen, then for a year at Cornell University, 1952, where I also took Music 101 and 102—the basic music course. I took cello lessons from 1946 to 1947, then played cello—not well—in my high-school orchestra from 1947 to 1950—among the best experiences in my growing-up years.

ON: What was the first opera you attended?

RBG: La Gioconda, in 1944, performed, condensed to one hour, at a high school in Brooklyn, under conductor Dean Dixon, the man responsible for my lifelong love of opera.

ON: Who are your all-time favorite singers?

RBG: Jussi Björling and Renata Tebaldi.

ON: What was your all-time best experience in an opera house?

RBG: The double debut of Leontyne Price and Franco Corelli in Trovatore at the Old Met.

ON: What was your worst experience? 

RBG: The death of Leonard Warren onstage at the Old Met in La Forza del Destino, at the end of his superbly performed third-act aria.

ON: Is there a performance you wish you could see again and again? 

RBG: Cesare Siepi as Don Giovanni—the sexiest character in opera.

ON: What is your favorite opera character?

RBG: Minnie in La Fanciulla del West. No victim she, Minnie fends for herself, keeps the miners in tow and saves her man.

Coda: What Else to Consider  

Justice Ginsburg’s operatic stage career began with walk-on appearances in Washington National Opera’s productions of Die Fledermaus and Ariadne auf Naxos. This past fall, she made her debut in a speaking role, playing the Duchess of Krakenthorp, with the dialogue (in English) rewritten with her in mind. Justice Ginsburg, who played the role only on the production’s opening night, said the most memorable aspect of her debut was “the huge support I received from everyone backstage and onstage.” spacer 



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