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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is making her opera debut

By Anne Midgette

October 21, 2016 at 10:08 AM

Justice at the opera: The tenor Corey Evan Rotz serenades Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Washington National Opera in 2013. On Nov. 12, Ginsburg will be taking the stage. (Yassine El Mansouri For the Washington National Opera.)

You've seen her on the bench, now see her on the stage. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is making her official opera debut on Nov. 12, playing the role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp on opening night of "The Daughter of the Regiment" at the Washington National Opera.

It's not a singing role, but it does have spoken lines, which WNO has tailored for the justice for her one-night outing.

Ginsburg's love of opera is no secret, and this isn't her first time on the Washington National Opera stage; she and the late Justice Antonin Scalia made a cameo appearance during the party scene of "Ariadne auf Naxos" in 2009, and she also was onstage in "Die Fledermaus" and an earlier "Ariadne" in 2003 and 1994, respectively. But she may be revealing a hitherto-unexplored interest in standup comedy. The Duchess has been played by everyone from Montserrat Caballé to Bea Arthur.

[Justice Scalia's bright (operatic) moment.]

Ginsberg usually takes a more behind-the-scenes approach — setting up, for example, performances by singers at the Supreme Court. Her presentation "Opera and the Law," with her commentary accompanying arias and ensembles, has been offered in a number of places, including the Glimmerglass Festival.

['Scalia/Ginsburg': An affectionate comic look at the high court.]

Unlike many of her predecessors as the Duchess, Ginsburg has also enjoyed the distinction of being an opera character herself. The short comic opera "Scalia/Ginsburg," which had its full premiere at Castleton in 2015, features a Justice Ginsburg who spouts long high-flying lines of coloratura. Ginsburg, 83, does not plan to take on that role herself at any point in the future.

The Washington National Opera's Daughter of the Regiment, with Lawrence Brownlee and Lisette Oropesa, opens Nov. 12 at the Kennedy Center Opera House, and runs through Nov. 20. Cindy Gold will play the duchess at subsequent performances.


Anne Midgette came to the Washington Post in 2008, when she consolidated her various cultural interests under the single title of chief classical music critic. She blogs at The Classical Beat.

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