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Dallas Symphony pays tribute to ‘Notorious RBG’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg 12

In recent years, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become a household name. A beloved figure who pushed for gender equality, the “Notorious RBG’s” likeness has been stitched onto pillows, made into bobbleheads and featured on COVID masks. Now, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will host a concert in the justice’s honor. 

Composer and pianist Jeffrey Biegel, who first conceived of the idea, reached out to the DSO, opera singer Denyce Graves and composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich to collaborate.

The concert on Oct. 7 will feature the world premiere of Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an orchestral piece with mezzo-soprano and piano soloists. Zwilich, the first woman to graduate from Julliard with a doctorate in composition and win a Pulitzer Prize in Music, said it was an honor to compose the piece. 

“Writing this has been a moving experience for me as I traveled metaphorically on the passionate voyage of her life,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been with her and shared her passion for life.” 

In three movements, the piece will follow the professional journey of Ginsburg: Act 1 is about Ginsburg encountering inequality, Act 2 is about her efforts to change those norms and Act 3 is about her legacy. 

Audiences will be able to easily follow the storyline as the opera will be in English. Zwilich adapted texts by poet Lauren K. Watel for the piece. She also pulled some of Ginsburg’s quotes from Jeffrey Rosen’s book Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law.

Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, who sang at Ginsburg’s memorial and considered the justice a close friend, will perform the piece along with the Dallas Symphony and pianist Jeffrey Biegel. 

The famed opera singer expressed her admiration for the late justice, reflecting on the way Ginsburg was a champion for equal rights. 

“For me, it feels like stepping into the history books and becoming a part of history to be able to tell a story, just a snapshot of pieces of her life,” she said. 

Biegel will also perform his composition “Reflection of Justice: An Ode to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” Other works that will be performed include Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and selections from Bizet’s Carmen in honor of Ginsburg, who was a fan and advocate of the opera. 

The concert comes amid a contentious abortion rights fight in Texas. Ginsburg, who strongly supported abortion rights, said in her 1993 Supreme Court confirmation hearings that a woman’s right to choose is a matter of equal treatment. 

The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When Government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”

The late justice continued to fight for women’s reproductive rights throughout her life, pushing back against arguments for a controversial Louisiana abortion access law in 2020.

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