An Opera by Derrick Wang

Thank you to all our patrons and viewers who supported the virtual performance of Scalia/Ginsburg!
We were proud to be able to bring this exciting performance to West Michigan and beyond, and hope to see you at the opera soon.

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By American composer and librettist Derrick Wang, this comic opera in one act is inspired by the opinions and unlikely friendship of Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Opera Grand Rapids will be one of the first opera companies in the world to produce this opera. Learn more.

Meet the Production and Cast

Derrick Wang | Composer and Librettist

Derrick Wang is a composer, writer, and thinker unlocking value in unlikely places.

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Mr. Wang’s work has drawn significant attention to opera in the national and international press — as the subject of a front-page article in The Wall Street Journal, a three-page illustrated feature in the Süddeutsche Zeitung [Germany’s largest national subscription daily newspaper], and articles and interviews in outlets including the ABA Journal, Associated Press (AP), Bloomberg, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna [Poland], The Economist, The Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, The New Republic, Opera Today, Der Standard [Austria], and The Washington Post. His work has received further coverage in The New York Times, AARP The Magazine, and the ABC television program Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

As a composer, Derrick Wang has received awards from musical organizations including ASCAP and BMI. His compositions, presented by artists and groups including the American Modern Ensemble, Castleton Festival, Glimmerglass Festival, Maryland Opera Studio, Opera North, Opera Saratoga, Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale, Washington National Opera, and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, have been heard in venues from New York to Shanghai, and his orchestrations have been performed at Carnegie Hall and Juilliard.

As a librettist and lyricist for opera and theater, his words, set to his own music, have been performed at venues including the Library of Congress, York Theatre, Ars Nova Theater, Joe’s Pub (New York Public Theater), Baltimore Center Stage, Harvard University, and Yale University. He has also served as a Resident Artist (Composer & Librettist) at American Lyric Theater.

As a scholar, he serves on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University, where he designs and teaches interdisciplinary courses on music and law, and has guest-lectured on opera composition and dramatic writing.

As a speaker and pianist, Mr. Wang demonstrates the power of the arts to transcend political divides. His appearances include presentations for TEDxBroadway, the Judicial–Congressional Dialogue, Second Circuit Judicial Conference, National Constitution Center, Stanford Arts Institute & Stanford Law School, Columbia Law School, and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

He currently serves as Founding Advisor at Arsapio, LLC, a creative consultancy for polymathic growth. Formerly an attorney in private practice, he has served as counsel advising creative clients across industries in the launch, operation, and growth of their ventures, and was named to Thomson Reuters’ Super Lawyers® Maryland Rising Stars list for his work in intellectual property law. He has also spent time at premier Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator, where he shadowed a group of over 100 startups while researching the creativity of tech entrepreneurship.

He received his A.B. magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in music from Harvard University and his Master of Music (M.M.) degree in Composition on a Richardson Scholarship from the Yale School of Music. He also received his J.D. on a Houff Leadership Scholarship from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law.

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Emily Jarrell Urbanek | Conductor

Emily Jarrell Urbanek is currently Director of Music Preparation for Opera Carolina in Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition to her coaching and chorus master duties for the company, she has musically directed and conducted the company’s touring productions of Pirates of Penzance and Papageno.

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She is also an extra keyboardist with the Charlotte Symphony. She frequently performs chamber music in the Charlotte area. For several years, Emily has been on the musical staff of the Fort Worth Opera Festival, where she will return in 2020 to musically direct Héctor Armienta’s Zorro, and the Chautauqua Opera. Recent repetiteur engagements include San Diego Opera (Nixon in China, 2015;  Samson et Dalila, 2013), New Orleans Opera (Dead Man Walking, 2016; Cendrillon, 2014), and Kentucky Opera (Carmen, 2019; Dead Man Walking, 2017). Emily holds degrees from Furman University, the University of Michigan, and the Cleveland Institute of Music.

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Cara Consilvio | Director

Cara Consilvio is a director and producer of opera, film and theater.

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In 2019, Cara directed An American Dream at Anchorage Opera, The Elixir of Love for Piedmont Opera and The Threepenny Opera for Syracuse Opera. In 2018, Cara directed the world premiere of Inheritance by composer Lei Liang and librettist Matt Donovan for UC San Diego. She directed her first Suor Angelica with Tri-Cities. She also directed After Life and Dialogues of the Carmelites for Loyola University New Orleans and The Merry Widow for The Hartt School. Cara earned outstanding reviews for her 2017 productions of Hydrogen Jukebox at Chautauqua Opera and Glory Denied at Tri-Cities Opera.

Cara is a co-founder of Hup! Productions. Her film directing projects include a feature documentary currently in production titledFor the Love of Friends, her debut narrative short film C.I.T., which was screened at eleven festivals and her upcoming short film Dry. Cara is executive producer and co-story writer of the horror comedy feature film Camp Wedding, which is currently finishing its festival run and being distributed by Gravitas Pictures. She has also produced and directed many tribute videos, promotional videos, and behind the scenes mini-docs for the NEA Opera Honors, the NEA Jazz Masters videos, OPERA America and American Composers Orchestra.

Cara brings her extensive performance background and training as a dancer, actor and singer to her work. She earned a BA in Dramatic Art and Dance from UC Berkeley, where she trained in Graham and Cunningham technique with Marnie Wood and Carol Murota. She pursued advanced acting training with the American Conservatory Theater and Williamstown Theater Festival. During her seven years as an actor in NYC, Cara studied acting and improvisation with Michael Howard, Gene Frankel, Kurt Braunohler and Armando Diaz, performing in independent films, theater and dance. As a singer, Cara trained in musical theater and opera. She studied voice with Bill O’Neill, Mark St. Laurent, Craig Wich and Martina Arroyo, and completed three years of post-baccalaureate studies in vocal performance at SUNY Fredonia.

When she’s not directing, Cara enjoys going on adventures with her husband, Alex and her dog, Marty.

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Michael Baumgarten | Lighting & Projection Designer

Mr. Baumgarten returns to Opera Grand Rapids for a fifth season, having designed lighting and video for more than 350 operas at regional and international companies, including Opera Carolina, Pittsburgh Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Manitoba Opera, Arizona Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera Kansas City, Palm Beach Opera and Opera Columbus during his more than 30-year career.

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A graduate of the Yale School of Drama and member of United Scenic Artists-Local 829, Mr. Baumgarten has been the director of production and resident lighting/video designer for Opera Carolina in Charlotte since 2005 and for Chautauqua Opera since 1999. Also, he was the lighting designer/production manager at Amherst College for 17 years.

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Jennifer Zetlan | Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Soprano Jennifer Zetlan is internationally recognized for her artistry and captivating stage presence. She has been seen and heard on opera and concert stages worldwide, as well as recital venues and on Broadway.

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The 2018-2019 season included her return to the Metropolitan Opera as the cover of Laura Fleet in the New York premiere of Marnie, Carmina burana with the Kansas City Symphony, Fauré’s Requiem at St. John of the Divine, Ginsburg in Scalia/Ginsburg with Opera Delaware, and the title role in Ellen West with Opera Saratoga. The 2019-2020 season sees her as the cover of Queen Tye in Akhnaten with the Metropolitan Opera and the reprise of her Ginsburg in Scalia/Ginsburg with Toledo Opera.

In the 2017-2018 season, Ms. Zetlan created the title role in Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt for On Site Opera, reprised her role in Crossing with American Repertory Theatre, reprised her Fanny in the New York premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Morning Star, and joined the San Francisco Symphony as Xenia in Boris Godunov. In the 2016-2017 season, she made her European debut with the Staatstheater Stuttgart in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, created the title role in the world premiere of Jane Eyre by Louis Karchin with Center for Contemporary Opera, (studio recorded for Naxos), was seen in Charlottesville Opera’s new production of Oklahoma! as Laurey, and concluded a run of Fiddler on the Roof (directed by Bartlett Sher) on Broadway. On the concert stage, she performed Kaija Saariaho’s Lonh with the New York Philharmonic, sang Woglinde in Das Rheingold with the New York Philharmonic, and sang Bruckner’s Te Deum and Mozart’s Mass in C minor with Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall and on tour in Uruguay.

Known for her passion for contemporary music, Ms. Zetlan has been featured in the premieres of numerous American operas including Ned Rorem’s Our Town (Aspen Music Festival and Juilliard Opera Center), Crossing (Matt Aucoin, ART), Steven Stucky and Jeremy Denk’s The Classical Style (Ojai Festival and Carnegie Hall), Morning Star (Ricky Ian Gordon, Cincinnati Opera), Nico Muhly’s Two Boys (The Metropolitan Opera), Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters (Gotham Chamber Opera and Opera Philadelphia), Daron Hagen’s Amelia (Seattle Opera), David Diamond’s Six Arias from The Noblest Game (Seattle Symphony), and Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre. Other contemporary works include The Tempest Songbook (Purcell-Saariaho) with Gotham Chamber Opera, Ligeti’s Requiem (American Symphony Orchestra), Golijov’s 3 Songs for Soprano (Lexington Philharmonic), Tavener’s Requiem (St. Ignatius Loyola with Kent Tritle conducting), and Richard Ayres’ In The Alps with Alarm Will Sound for which the New York Times called her “flawless.”

At the Metropolitan Opera, Ms. Zetlan has been seen in productions of War and Peace (2nd French actress), Boris Godunov (Xenia), Le nozze di Figaro (bridesmaid), Macbeth (bloody child), and Two Boys (Rebecca). Favorite notable roles elsewhere include Gilda in Rigoletto (Seattle Opera and Crested Butte), Musetta in La bohème (Princeton Festival, Seattle Opera), Woglinde in Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung and The Forest Bird in Siegfried (Seattle Opera), Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (Ash Lawn Opera, Nashville Opera), Sardula in The Last Savage (Santa Fe Opera), Madeline in The Fall of the House of Usher (Nashville Opera), Laoula in L’étoile (New York City Opera), and Nannetta in Falstaff (Juilliard Opera Center), among others.

Ms. Zetlan is a committed performer of orchestral works, and has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Lexington Philharmonic, the Indianapolis Symphony, American Composers’ Orchestra, Juilliard Orchestra, Omaha Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, National Chorale and has been heard at Carnegie Hall with Oratorio Society of New York, Musica Sacra, Alarm Will Sound, American Symphony Orchestra, MasterVoices (formerly Collegiate Chorale) and the New York Youth Symphony. Recognized as a unique recitalist, Ms. Zetlan was selected as a Marilyn Horne Foundation artist; she was heard in recital with her husband, pianist David Shimoni at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church in New York City as well as at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. Ms. Zetlan was awarded The Juilliard School Vocal Arts Honors Recital in Alice Tully Hall in 2012 also with Shimoni. The duo has given recitals for the Golandsky Institute, Foothills Music Festival, and the Artist Series of Sarasota. Ms. Zetlan has also given recitals with pianists Martin Katz and Ricky Ian Gordon.

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Peter Scott Drackley | Antonin Scalia

Lauded by Opera News as having “showed vocal confidence […] his luminous head voice blooming with expansive and penetrating phrases,” and by Opera Today as bringing “the performance to an awestruck standstill with his exquisite singing. He cuts a fine figure throughout the performance, with an intense stage presence,” Peter Scott Drackley has performed such operatic roles as Rodolfo (La bohème), Macduff (Macbeth), Pollione (Norma), Riccardo (Un Ballo in Maschera), and (Cavalleria Rusticana).

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Mr. Drackley is a frequent concert soloist, having sung Verdi’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and 9th Symphony. He also debuted the role of Antonin Scalia in Derrick Wang’s opera Scalia/Ginsburg at the Supreme Court, a concert that was featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

A student of Alexandra LoBianco, Mr. Drackley has performed with the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, Baltimore Concert Opera, Penn Square Music Festival, Winter Opera St. Louis, Londontowne Symphony, LoftOpera, the Strathmore Mansion, the National Cathedral, Opera in the Heights, and as a soloist at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Drackley trained at Peabody Conservatory, as a Studio Artist with Sarasota Opera, and as an Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera and Santa Fe Opera.

Recently, Mr. Drackley joined Opera Omaha for Opera Outdoors, where he sang arias and ensembles from Un Ballo in Maschera, Attila, and Turandot. He joined Baltimore Concert Opera for their Thirsty Thursdays at the Opera, and Maryland Opera for Viva Verismo, where he sang as Turiddu (Cavalleria Rusticana) and Canio (i Pagliacci). Mr. Drackley made his role debut as Cavaradossi (Tosca) with Opera in the Heights and reprises the role in the spring with Anchorage Opera. Mr. Drackley returns to Opera Idaho as Rodolfo (La bohème) and will join Opera Carolina and Opera Grand Rapids to sing Antonin Scalia (Scalia/Ginsburg). He also will join Raylynmor Opera to debut Radamés (Aïda). Mr. Drackley is thrilled to return to Des Moines Metro Opera to sing Pirelli (Sweeney Todd) and sing Chekalinsky and cover Gherman (Pique Dame).

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Michael Colman | Commentator

Bass-baritone Michael Colman has performed roles from Mozart’s Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro) and Rossini’s Basilio (Il barbiere di Siviglia) to Britten’s Collatinus (The Rape of Lucretia) and Puccini’s Schaunard (La bohème).

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Michael made his professional debut as an Apprentice Artist with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and went on to perform leading and supporting roles with Virginia Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Dayton Opera, Toledo Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Opera on the James, Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, Fayetteville Opera, and Charlottesville Opera. He earned degrees from Baylor University and the University of Kansas studying under Dr. John Stephens. An avid art song and concert singer, Michael recently performed in recital with Warren Jones at the Manchester Music Festival and with the Dayton Philharmonic in Handel’s Messiah. Upcoming engagements include The Commentator (Scalia/Ginsburg) and the Assasin, Herald, and Doctor (Macbeth) with Toledo Opera.

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Opera Background

Illustration by David Parkins

Scalia/Ginsburg is the American opera by composer-librettist Derrick Wang. Inspired by the unlikely friendship of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, Scalia/Ginsburg was launched at a special presentation at the Supreme Court of the United States in 2013 before receiving its world premiere production in 2015 and was later revised after the passing of Justice Scalia.

Scalia/Ginsburg is a buddy comedy with an operatic twist and reflects the witty style of its subjects by applying “operatic precedent.” Like a Supreme Court opinion, the score of Scalia/Ginsburg is a mosaic of allusions to influential statements of the past.

Here are just a few of the musical styles eluded to within Scalia/Ginsburg:

  • Originalist rage aria, in the style of Händel.
  • Patter aria, in the style of Rossini and Gilbert & Sullivan.
  • Bel canto cavatina, in the style of Bellini.
  • Competing insertion arias from Verdi and Mozart, in the spirit of Offenbach.
  • Aria and variations in evolving styles, including opera, jazz, and gospel-pop.
  • Lyric aria, in the style of Puccini (but American).
  • Sinfonia concertante da camera, in the style of Mozart & the Mendelssohns.
  • Trilingual trio, featuring Puccini & R. Strauss.