Wednesday, May 13, 2015

opera, a touch of it

Lisa Irontongue wants everyone to buy a ticket to the SF Opera production of Berlioz' Les Troyens. A 5 1/2 hour opera based on one of the most boring books I've ever read? Not for me, thanks.

But, while it's true that "opera" is not much more enticing a word to me than is "5 1/2 hours" or "boring", there are some things operatic I'll attend. I've already proven my devotion to the greatest of all opera composers, Sir Arthur Sullivan, having been to productions of two of his lesser-known operas this year alone; and tonight I was more than pleased to attend, at Stanford, a piano recital of a few arias and duets from a new legal opera, Scalia/Ginsburg, by composer and lawyer Derrick Wang.

I'm glad I took the trouble to go. It was so clever and witty and erudite, both musically and (in its libretto) legally. The law is based on precedent, right? Well, Wang composed based on operatic precedent, with quotations and pastiche all over. To tell their backgrounds, Ginsburg sings a Mozartean aria for her favorite composer; Scalia's, for his Italian ancestry, is based on Puccini. (Voice from the background: "Puccini's too good for him!") Wang said he was initially inspired by Scalia dissents which read to him like Baroque rage arias: full of strong emotion exposed on the surface, and firmly rooted in the 18th century. So he gets one of those too.

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