She has already achieved icon status from a fan-girl book, a bio-pic, a documentary, and many dissenting opinions, and now Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is being portrayed in music.
“The Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Song” is a one-night-only event at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, at the National Museum of American Jewish History, created, performed, and presented by those who know her well: soprano/composer Patrice Michaels (her daughter-in-law) and recording producer James Ginsburg (her son).
The evening is based on a recording of the same name on the classical music label Cedille, with operatic music mostly written by Michaels.
Some songs employ Ginsburg’s words, others quote letters written to her at key points in her life. Titles include “On Working Together,” but more intriguingly, “The Elevator Thief,” which refers to an incident in which her then-young son James was accused by his school principal of stealing an elevator.
One of the album’s most poignant moments is “My Dearest Ruth,” which quotes an elegiac letter, set to music by Stacy Garrop, written by Ginsburg’s longtime husband Marty during his final illness in 2010.
It’s well known that Ginsburg loves opera. She has been spotted in the audience at the Metropolitan Opera and once made a cameo appearance in the Washington National Opera’s production of Daughter of the Regiment.
Ginsburg is also the subject of an ongoing NMAJH exhibition, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” which runs through Jan. 12.
A playlist of Justice Ginsburg’s favorite opera recordings has been posted on Spotify, and one can see a through line in her taste.
She gravitates towards the best of the best – Otello, Don Giovanni, Der Rosenkavalier – and in performances that are significant not just for their understanding of the music but for their exterior polish, with singers such as Jussi Bjorling, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and Renee Fleming.
The Thursday event at the National Museum of American Jewish History (5th and Market streets) will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Michaels and James Ginsburg. Tickets: $45 (includes admission to the ongoing RBG exhibit).
The museum bookstore has a good selection of RBG merchandise stocked for the holidays.