Lawyers rarely get to display their artistic talents. The closest most get to the creative process is drafting a contract for a performer or writer.

Lesley Rosenthal, the chief operating officer of The Juilliard School, is no longer settling for mere vicarious pleasures. The former general counsel for Lincoln Center and one-time litigation associate at Paul Weiss is making her opera debut as the co-librettist (meaning “co-writer,” for the uninitiated) of “Dear Erich,” a jazz opera that premiered Wednesday at the New York City Opera.

Based on 200 letters discovered in an attic by the jazz composer and pianist Ted Rosenthal (Lesley’s husband), the opera tells the story of Herta Rosenthal, who is trapped in Germany during WW II. From 1983 to 1941, Herta writes to her son Erich (Ted’s father), a student in the United States, as he Nazi closes in.

In the video below, I talked to Lesley and Ted about their collaboration and Lesley’s transformation from lawyer and corporate executive to opera librettist.