Law and Order on the Opera Stage

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On today's program, the highest art in the land meets the highest court: presiding mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne talks with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a noted opera fan who has even appeared onstage in cameo roles. "If truth be told, lawyers and law do not come off very well in opera," she explains.

Our own commentator La Cieca concurs with the majority: "I really must say that judges get a terrible rap in opera.” Together we hear oral arguments from Verdi and Bernstein.

Operavore contributor David Patrick Stearns give us his verdict on the Met’s new production of Rigoletto.

And in advance of the Super Bowl, a little something for football fans. The bass Morris Robinson – who was a two-time all-America offensive lineman at the Citadel – talks about the parallels between the gridiron and the opera stage.

The Greatest Opera Courtroom Scenes

The opera and operetta repertoires have long involved legal trials. In Verdi's Aida, Radamès is put on trial for his unwitting betrayal of a state secret. Britten's Billy Budd (based on Herman Melville's novella) has long been a topic of fascination in legal circles: discussion centers around whether the title character was unjustly executed and whether the man who sent him to his death, Captain Starry Vere, was a jurisprudential hero or villain.

Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial By Jury involves a legal system run amok: a shameless cad fights a breach-of-promise suit brought by his jilted lover. Janacek's Makropulos Case involves a contested will while Robert Ward's The Crucible (based on Arthur Miller's play) takes place during the Salem witch trials.

Photo: © Beth Bergman 2010