Law in Popular Culture

Forget law review articles. Law grad portrays views of Scalia and Ginsburg in opera

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Derrick Wang, a composer and recent University of Maryland law grad, got the inspiration for his new opera while reading U.S. Supreme Court opinions in law school.

The opera, Scalia/Ginsburg, is based on the words of Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, friends who share a love of opera despite differing constitutional views, report NPR and the Associated Press.

Wang told NPR he was reading Scalia’s dissents when he first got the idea. “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 said. “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.’ “

Scalia and Ginsburg got a preview of the opera on June 27, the day after the Supreme Court struck down a ban on federal benefits for same-sex married couples. Both congratulated Wang; Scalia confessed he’d like to be a tenor and Ginsburg said she would love to be a great diva.

Here are some of the words from the opera:

Scalia: “The justices are blind—how can they possibly spout this? The Constitution says absolutely nothing about this! This right that they’ve enshrined—when did the document sprout this? The Framers wrote and signed words that endured without this; the Constitution says absolutely nothing about this!”

Ginsburg: “How many times must I tell you, dear Mister Justice Scalia: You’d spare us such pain if you’d just entertain this idea. You are searching in vain for a bright-line solution to a problem that isn’t so easy to solve. But the beautiful thing about our Constitution is that, like our society, it can evolve.”

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