Chautauqua Opera brings bipartisanship to stage through ‘Scalia/Ginsburg’


Chautauqua Opera Company Guest Artist Chauncey Packer, as Justice Antonin Scalia, and Young Artist Kelly Guerra, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, rehearse July 7 in the Performance Pavilion on Pratt. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Productions based on real people are not a new concept by any means; however, it is rare that one gets to meet the person that they will later be directing an adaptation of on stage. 

This is exactly the case for Cara Consilvio, the director of the Chautauqua Opera Company’s Scalia/Ginsburg, an opera by Derrick Wang, which is continuing its run at 4 p.m. Friday, July 16 at the Performance Pavilion on Pratt. 

Consilvio has directed film, theater and opera, and she has directed Scalia/Ginsburg twice before for Opera Carolina and Opera Grand Rapids.

Consilvio got the chance to meet Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at an award show. Ginsburg was a fan of the opera. 

“I’ve also seen her at a lot of events, but that was the time I got to speak with her,” Consilvio said. “She was just so amazing and so inspiring.”

Kelly Guerra, one of the Chautauqua Opera’s Young Artists this summer, is playing Ginsburg and felt challenged to live up to the Supreme Court justice.

“I was really intimidated at first, because she is a personal hero of mine,” Guerra said. “It was really amazing to get to know little facts about her life and realize how even more amazing she is, beyond what she’s done for women here in the United States.” 

In rehearsal, Guerra was worried about not possessing Ginsburg’s confidence, but was encouraged by the crew clapping and cheering her on as she walked across the stage in character.

“I think after that moment, I was telling myself right before I went into the gym, ‘You changed the world, you changed this country. Now go be great.’ I have to say that before I get on stage,” Guerra said.

The show highlights the unlikely friendship between Ginsburg and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who were on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

“I feel this is a really challenging time, right now, obviously, as a country, going through something really traumatic that still is super-polarized politically,” Cosilvio said. “I feel like their friendship maybe can offer hope for a future where it’s less divisive, or that it’s divisive with respect — as opposed to that if someone disagrees politically that it’s your (responsibility) to take them down entirely as a person.” 

Chautauqua Opera General and Artistic Director Steven Osgood has been stopped by a lot of Chautauquans, both who have seen the show and who haven’t seen it, and he has tried to avoid sharing spoilers.

“I’ve had a couple questions from passersby saying, ‘I’m coming to the opera on Friday, looking forward to it,’ and they would ask me a question about it,” Osgood said. “I would think and say, ‘I’m not going to answer that question for you.’ or I would answer a little sliver of it and say, ‘That’s all I’m going to tell you for now.’ I think that we’ve kind of hit the mark with Scalia/Ginsburg.”

Consilvio hopes that all audiences get something out of the opera, whether it be the subtle jokes about Supreme Court cases or the nods to classic operas.

“I hope that it’s entertaining,” Consilvio said. “I hope that it’s a comedy. I hope there’s some laughs. I hope people are moved. I feel like no one should ever have to know anything about opera to go to an opera. I don’t even think you should have to read a program. I feel like it has to be up there and it has to draw you in. Can people be genuinely engaged, interested, and not be making a shopping list? Is it an hour of their life that they can really get lost in this scenario and this story and just have a good time?”

Tags : antonin scaliaCara ConsilvioChautauqua Opera Companyderrick wangoperaPerformance Pavilion on Prattruth bader ginsburgscalia/ginsburg
David Kwiatkowski

The author David Kwiatkowski