Remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg September 22, 2020

"We will always remember Justice Ginsburg as one of opera's strongest allies who believed in the unwavering power of art and humanity." These are the words of Opera America as they paid tribute to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away on September 18, 2020.

Justice Ginsburg was only the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993. She famously shared, "When I'm sometimes asked 'When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?' and I say 'When there are nine,' people are shocked. But there'd been nine men [until 1981], and nobody's ever raised a question about that."

Her love for opera was well documented. As The New York Times reported, Justice Ginsburg "saw her first opera — a condensed version of La Gioconda — in 1944, when she was 11, and was immediately hooked, becoming the kind of aficionado who goes to dress rehearsals, and then opening nights, and then closing nights, too, for good measure." She was such a fan that she even took a few turns on the stage, sharing the operatic spotlight at various times with her colleagues Justices Scalia, Breyer, and Kennedy, and most recently being featured as the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment at Washington National Opera alongside tenor Lawrence Brownlee in 2016.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (accompanied by the tenor Lawrence Brownlee) after appearing in the speaking role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment at Washington National Opera in 2016.

Lyric Opera's Near North Chapter hosted an event featuring Justice Ginsburg in September 2018, where General Director Anthony Freud interviewed her at the University Club after she shared remarks on the intersection of law and opera. This was the second time that Anthony Freud shared a stage with her, the first being a 2012 panel by the Advisory Board for the Arts called "Arias of Law: The Rule of Law at Work in Opera and the Supreme Court."

"It was an honor to hear Justice Ginsburg talk about the art form that we all know and love that night," Anthony shared, "and to have the opportunity to ask her about her experiences with and thoughts on opera. The intersections between opera and the law are many and varied, and Justice Ginsburg was fascinating in her insights on the subject. Everyone there that evening was taken by her obvious passion for the art and for the artists she's met throughout her remarkable career. "

The intersections between opera and the law are many and varied, and Justice Ginsburg was fascinating in her insights on the subject.

-Anthony Freud, General DirectorPresident & CEO of Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

Lyric's own Board Chair Sylvia Neil, a distinguished lawyer who has devoted her career to establishing opportunities for women and being a champion for social justice, shares that Justice Ginsburg held great influence for her. "As a young lawyer, I was privileged to be present at meetings where Justice Ginsburg was developing her strategies for fighting sex discrimination. She continued to inspire me throughout my own career as an advocate for women's rights. And as an opera lover myself, I embrace her idea that one can find peace and replenishment through performances of great music."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at a Lyric event at the University Club of Chicago in September 2018.

"Music is one time when my head isn't filled with briefs and opinions, and all that is put on a shelf and I just enjoy, or am thinking about the performance," Justice Ginsburg shared in an interview program at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Her son, Chicago resident Jim Ginsburg, shares his parents' passion for classical music and is the founder and president of Cedille Records, a classical recording label which he launched in 1989 while a student at University of Chicago.

The 2018 program with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Freud, featuring an introduction from Jim Ginsburg, may still be enjoyed on Lyric's YouTube channel. We invite you to spend some time with this great lover of music as we celebrate her legacy.

Photos: Todd Rosenberg, Scott Suchman/Washington National Opera