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Classical Notes

Even Scalia Got Weak in the Knees

Posted at 5:14 AM on November 2, 2008 by Gillian Martin

Supreme Court justices are generally known as rational, tough-minded people, not easily swayed by emotion. So what does it take to soften them up?

A true diva in their midst, apparently. When soprano Leontyne Price and other opera luminaries were honored by the National Endowment for the Arts this week, opera-loving justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Anthony Kennedy hosted a luncheon for them. From the story in the New York Times, it seems these lions of the law stopped just short of blushing and giggling as they were introduced to the grand diva.

For me, though, the most touching moment in the story is this one:

Touring Justice Ginsburg's temporary chambers (the justices' permanent offices are being renovated), Ms. Price, accompanied by her younger brother, George Price, a retired United States Army general, was visibly overcome.

"What would our parents say?" she asked her brother, thinking of their origins in Laurel, Miss., where her mother was a midwife and her father a handyman.

The others who were honored, though apparently not swooned over, were conductor James Levine; the composer Carlisle Floyd (best known for his operas "Susannah" and "Of Mice and Men," which have become repertory works); and impresario Richard Gaddes, formerly of both the Opera Theater of St. Louis and the Santa Fe Opera.

Read the whole thing here (registration required).