Supreme Court justice Ginsburg takes the stage

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's (centre) role as a duchess in The Daughter Of The Regiment was a one- night-only performance.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's (centre) role as a duchess in The Daughter Of The Regiment was a one- night-only performance.PHOTO: SCOTT SUCHMAN FOR THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA

WASHINGTON • A standing ovation for merely appearing on stage? Just another Saturday night for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Supreme Court justice and known lover of the arts had a one-night-only performance at the opening of Washington National Opera's The Daughter Of The Regiment at the Kennedy Center.

The show, which is a little more Disney than diva, is about a young French woman who grows up on the battlefield, but is whisked away from her true love once she reaches marrying age so that she can join high society and find a suitable match.

The audience did not have to wait too long for Ginsburg's Duchess of Krakenthorp to make her debut in Act II.

"I did this for the first time; I had a speaking part. I never have a singing part because I'm a monotone," Ginsburg said later in the evening at the cast party.

In an instance of art imitating life, Ginsburg's duchess gives the young woman rules for holding a position of rank. "Applicants seeking a station so exalted must possess adequate financial resources. They must have the fortitude to undergo strict scrutiny. Their character must be beyond reproach."

Later, the duchess asks to see a birth certificate, apparently referring to the bogus "birther" campaign against Mr Barack Obama. She finishes with this advice: "Dropping traditions that have worked and are continuing to work is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."

By this point, many in the audience were on their feet again, and some were whispering to their seatmates about whether this was the original script.

After the performance, the cast members and VIP guests - including former senator Elizabeth Dole, Ambassador of Switzerland Martin Dahinden and his wife Anita - moved upstairs for a buffet, open bar and chance to mingle with the 83-year-old justice.

As this was more of a bow tie-and-shawl crowd, Ginsburg received more requests to autograph programmes than to take selfies.

So what about that telling dialogue? "They gave me the script and I rewrote it with lines that fit me," Ginsburg said. (According to The Washington Post's classical music critic Anne Midgette, that is common for the duchess role.)

But when asked to share her thoughts on the political events of the week, the justice had no comment.

The art will have to speak for itself.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'Supreme Court justice Ginsburg takes the stage'. Subscribe