OperaDelaware to run timely comic billing of 'Scalia/Ginsburg' and 'Trial by Jury'

3 minute read
Brian Cheney and Jennifer Zetlan perform in OperaDE's comedy 'Scalia/Ginsburg.' (Photo by Moonloop Photography.)
Brian Cheney and Jennifer Zetlan perform in OperaDE's comedy 'Scalia/Ginsburg.' (Photo by Moonloop Photography.)

OperaDelaware’s legal-themed 2019 Festival (don’t April and May last year seem light years away?) was fun at the time, but it seems exceptionally topical now. Two of the company’s highly regarded productions from the Festival, Derrick Wang’s contemporary Scalia/Ginsburg and the Gilbert & Sullivan chestnut Trial by Jury, will air on Saturday, November 7 at 1pm.

Here comes the judge!

These two one-act operas, recorded live in performance at Wilmington’s Grand Opera House, garnered many favorable reviews, including one from BSR writer Erin Dohony. They will be heard on the WFMT national radio network, broadcast (or streaming) on Temple University’s WRTI 90.1 FM. “This comic double-bill was the best-selling show in our 75-year history,” says general director Brendan Cooke, “and we’re delighted to share the performances with an even larger audience this weekend.”

At its 1875 London premiere, the success of Trial by Jury by Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert launched their legendary spate of 13 “Savoy Opera” collaborations. The wacky satire of a marriage breach of promise between The Plaintiff (Angelina, sung by Anaïs Naharro-Murphy) and The Defendant (Edwin, sung by Colin Doyle) takes place in the frenzied courtroom of The Learned Judge (Ben Lowe), who is neither learned nor judicially sound. Cooke notes that “we were so proud to highlight the work of our OperaDelaware young artists in this production.”

The Learned Judge passes judgment in 'Trial by Jury.' (Photo by Moonloop Photography.)
The Learned Judge passes judgment in 'Trial by Jury.' (Photo by Moonloop Photography.)

Scalia/Ginsburg (which premiered in 2015) was inspired by the relationship of the late Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. While they often sparred on decisions of the Court, the two were off-the-bench friends who bonded over their love of opera, and they frequently attended performances together. Composer Derrick Wang’s three-character work takes place in an otherworldly setting where Ginsburg (Jennifer Zetlan) and Scalia (Brian Cheney) appear before the Wagnerian Commentator (Ben Wager). The music wittily quotes from myriad operas and composers, and the libretto includes actual lines from the justices’ opinions and speeches.

Wang moves in both worlds, with a master’s degree in composition from Yale and a juris doctor from the University of Maryland. An early version of his libretto was published by the Columbia Journal of Law and the Arts with prefaces by both justices. “We couldn’t be more excited to share Derrick’s timely story of bipartisan friendship,” says Cooke, “especially in this election-day climate.”

The double-bill will also stream online on OperaDelaware’s website, where radio or online listeners can access the original program notes, cast lists, sequenced production photos, and streaming supertitles during the broadcast.

What, When, Where, and Accessibility

Scalia/Ginsburg (music and libretto by Derrick Wang) and Trial by Jury (music by Arthur Sullivan, libretto by W.S. Gilbert) premiere on Saturday, November 7, at 1pm on WRTI-FM (90.1 in Philadelphia, 107.7 in Wilmington) and online.

Program notes, cast list, production photos, and streaming supertitles available during the broadcast on the OperaDelaware website.

Image Description 1: Actors Brian Cheney and Jennifer Zetlan stand beside each other, smiling while wearing judge's robes.

Image Description 2: A man dressed as a judge sits at a tall judge's podium, near the top of the photo, with another man sitting by a desk at the bottom of the photo. Both are wearing colonial hairstyle wigs.

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