The Notorious RBG’s Majority Opinion–Opera is Supreme

Sydney Opera House, Pixabay

The Notorious RBG’s Majority Opinion–Opera is Supreme

By: Annie J. Rago, 3E


Not only has the United States Supreme Court lost one of the most influential justices of our time; so, too, has the opera world lost an ardent supporter. From the very young age of 11, Justice Ginsberg not only loved the art form, she had an exceptional taste for excellence in vocal caliber. Opera gave her a true escape, and she was riveted by the operatic female protagonists. Admittedly, when she “would go to the opera, [she was] just lost in it.”[1]


Opera is distinct. There are no microphones; only the precise techniques to make precedent with the body’s breath.  Opera performance is organic and vulnerable, and Justice Ginsberg was always engrossed by its “glorious music, high drama, and gorgeous voices.”[2]


Justice Ginsberg appreciated the delivery and character performance of a polished, emotional singer—her taste of the art and the voice were supreme. She recognized that the operatic voice does not just happen overnight, nor does it happen by chance. Her veneration for the quality of operatic sound, and performance, is derived from an opera singer’s culmination of years of dedicated practice and honest resilience—characteristics embedded in Justice Ginsberg’s own character.


In a 2017 Opera News interview, the renowned Swedish tenor Jussi Björling[3] and Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi[4] were revealed to be Justice Ginsberg’s most beloved operatic singers.[5] And quite playfully, she remarked Italian bass Cesare Siepi[6], playing the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni[7], would certainly be “the sexiest character in opera.”[8]


Justice Ginsberg’s legacy as a woman’s rights champion not only is opined, it is evidenced by her most adored opera female protagonists; Minnie (La Fanciulla del West[9]) and Leonore (Fidelio[10]).[11] She loved Richard Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung[12];” in particular, the finale where Brünnhilde banishes greed and proves the power in life is love’s redemption.[13] Justice Ginsberg numerously remarked to her friend and director of the Washington National Opera and Glimmerglass Festival, “…why it took a woman to save the world? [But] only a woman could do it; only a woman could change the course of history.”[14]


“Most of the time, even when I go to sleep, I am thinking about legal problems,” yet, opera provided a notable outlet free of distraction for Justice Ginsberg.[15] She carried the significance and importance of opera to her daughter; they listened numerous times to a recording of Mozart’s Così fan tutte16 and read the libretto together.[17] As a family, the Ginsberg’s took both of their children to the opera.[18] Her son’s first opera was Aida[19].20 Justice Ginsberg noticeably recognized the specialty of opera—a world distinctly its own, one in which she hoped to pass to the next generation.


Justice Ginsberg realized corollaries between law and opera. She provided a summer program at Glimmerglass Opera, “Law and Opera with R.B.G.”[21] Here, she would detail the distinction of contract law in opera. She explained how opera’s librettos were riddled in contract law and bridged the legal doctrines with the corresponding operatic scenes.[22] For example, she described the “Seguidilla”[23] from Carmen[24] as being a plea bargaining.[25]


Undoubtably, the notorious R.B.G’s majority opinion had certainly been opera is supreme. Rest in Peace, Your Honor, Brava.



[2] Id.






[8] Id. at 5.



[11] Id. at 1;



14 Id.

15 Id. at 1.


17 Id. at 1.

18 Id. at 1.


20 Id. at 1.

21 Id. at 13.

22 Id. at 13.



25 Id. at 13.

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