Estates Litigation, a Staged Law Library and the SFO

Okay a seasonal quiz question – in which work of art do a law library and a complex question of estate litigation feature prominently?

Okay – a big hint. It’s opera.

Slaw readers will be able to name a number of operas with legal themes, Tosca, Don Giovanni, Billy Budd and more.

And we salute the students and faculty at the U Penn Law School who have for many years, run their own opera company.

And the Allen & Overy production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne. Of course, Tamino’s trials weren’t exactly legal.

Okay, the answer is in the Makropulos Case. It was based on the play by Karel Čapek.

The San Francisco Opera recent production of the Makropulos Case by Leoš Janácek features the first accurate portrayal of a law library on the set of a major opera – the First Act of the Makropulos Case is set in the office of Dr. Kolenatý, a noted Czech lawyer.


The library was assembled from the discards of the University of San Francisco’s Zief Law Library – keen eyes might spot discarded West Law Reporters, and other publications.

Here are the shelvers:

Zief crew

The play revolves around missing heirs, a three hundred year old claimant and interminable litigation.

And the documents snowed down – like the stranded runways of Heathrow:


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