Justice Ginsburg speaks at Chautauqua Institution
CHAUTAUQUA – Typically, a lecture does not have musical interludes.
However, the hundreds who were in attendance for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s lecture at Chautauqua Institution were treated to a show.
Ginsburg spoke on what she admitted were her two great passions – law and opera.
During her lecture, which lasted more than an hour, Ginsburg combined live opera with humor as she detailed how often law is a major plot point in operas.
Ginsburg joked that although she is passionate about opera, her own singing skills are poor.
“In my dreams, I can be a great diva,” Ginsburg said.
Following her invitation to speak at Chautauqua Institution, Ginsburg said she had to look at operas in a new light as she contemplated the connection between law and opera.
“The invitation to be with you challenged me to consider the topic anew,” Ginsburg said. “I find it fair to say that law does have a comparable part in opera.”
Ginsburg spoke about several musicals – including her favorite, “The Marriage of Figaro” – and how law is involved in the plot. Following her explanation of each plot, members of the Chautauqua Opera Company Young Artists’ Program performed arias or ensemble numbers, depending on the opera being discussed.
Additionally, Ginsburg spoke about an event she called “An Afternoon of Music” at the Supreme Court Building. The event has been occurring since the 1980s. At first, it was held every other year. Then it was held yearly.
“Since 2002, when I picked up the reigns, the event occurs twice a year,” Ginsburg said.
She also spoke about a comedic opera that is in the works, entitled “Scalia V. Ginsburg,” written by Derrick Wang, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland’s Carey School of Law. The opera uses the justices’ own words to put together the show.
“It’s about two people with notably different views of constitutional interpretation, who nonetheless respect and genuinely like each other,” Ginsburg said.
Following her lecture, Ginsburg also answered a series of questions from the audience.
In 1993, Ginsburg was nominated by President Bill Clinton as associate justice of the United State Supreme Court. Prior to her appointment, she served on the bench of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit.
From 1972-80, Ginsburg was a professor at Columbia University School of Law. Prior to that, she served on the law faculty of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Ginsburg was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Throughout the 1970s, she litigated a series of cases solidifying a constitutional principle against gender-based discrimination. She has also served on the Board of Editors of the American Bar Association Journal, as well as secretary, board member and executive committee member of the American Bar Foundation.
She also served on the Council of the American Law Institute and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.