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Press Releases

Bronx Opera to Revive Blitzstein's 'Regina'

December 8, 2015 | By Daniel Guss
Bronx, New York – The Bronx Opera Company (BxO) will present Marc Blitzstein’s rarely-staged opera "Regina," based on Lillian Hellman’s play "The Little Foxes," as the first production of its 49th season.

There will be two performances in the Bronx (Lehman College’s Lovinger Theatre, Saturday, January 16 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, January 17 at 2:00 pm), followed by two performances in Manhattan (Hunter College’s Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse, Saturday, January 23 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, January 24 at 2:00 pm). A children’s matinee will be presented at the Lovinger Theatre on Friday, January 15, 2016, at 11:00 am.

Set in Alabama in the year 1900, the opera centers on Regina Giddens and her brothers, Ben and Oscar Hubbard. They plan a business deal that will make them rich and powerful, at the expense of the community they already have extensively exploited, including members of their own family. It’s too late for her husband, Horace, and sister-in-law, Birdie, to escape; but her daughter Alexandra stands up to Regina and leaves her alone with her hard-won wealth.

Since its premiere on Broadway in 1949, "Regina" has generally been performed in the opera house. New York City Opera debuted the opera version in 1953, reviving it in 1958 and 1959; that company subsequently staged a new production in 1992. The only other fully-staged presentation of "Regina" in New York City since then was in 2000, when Bronx Opera first mounted it.

"Regina" will be directed by Benjamin Spierman, who also directed Bronx Opera’s earlier staging. He comments, “'Regina' is endlessly interesting because it is so very American in its musical style, and in the story it tells. The many kinds of music (including hymns, blues, ragtime, jazz, polkas, foxtrots and traditional music theater) make it a unique work very worthy of revival. It has been 15 years since our first go at 'Regina.' I have directed more than 60 shows since then, and my perspective has changed a lot. In terms of the production, there will be some twists this time that weren't there before.”

"Regina" is one of nine American operas that BxO has staged, and one of four the company has presented more than once. Michael Spierman, Bronx Opera’s founder and conductor, says, “I think Blitzstein's personal and political approach to music and drama makes 'Regina' different from other American operas of the 1940s and 50s. Few mid-century American composers wrote music as steeped in left-wing politics as Blitzstein’s, even though Regina is less political than other pieces of his. He felt music should be written for a reason. Some of his other works are more overtly political; in 'Regina,' the politics are there, but more subtly combined with the plot and characters created by Lillian Hellman. There are several outstanding works in his oeuvre, but overall, I think 'Regina' is his best, from beginning to end, and contains his finest music.”



The Bronx Opera presents Marc Blitzstein’s opera REGINA

The Bronx: Saturday, January 16, 2016 at 7:30 pm • Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Lehman College’s Lovinger Theatre, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY

Manhattan: Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 7:30 pm • Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 2:00 pm | The Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College, 695 Park Avenue (entrance on 68th Street), New York, NY

Tickets start at $20 and are available at www.bronxopera.org, and will also be sold at the box office.

The Cast

Nicole Lee Aiossa, Alessandra Altieri*, Benjamin Bloomfield*, Helena Brown, Shane Brown, Michael Celentano, Andrew Cohen*, Jeffrey Dinowitz, Christopher Eaglin*, Halley Gilbert, Bernard Holcomb, Andrew Klima, Peter Ludwig*, C. David Morrow, Karmesha Peake, Zack Rabin*, Andres Ramirez*, Jonathan Rohr*, Erin Schwab, Hannah Spierman, Leslie Swanson

Covers

Lisa Bryce, Caprice Corona, Charlotte Detrick, Angela Dinkelman, Kevin Miller, Jennifer Russo

Conductors: Michael Spierman (1/17, 23, 24); Eric Kramer (1/16) | Director: Benjamin Spierman | Set Designer: Scott Aronow | Costume Designer: Katja Andreiev* | Lighting Designer: G. Benjamin Swope | Production Stage Manager: Miriam Rochford | Production Manager: Scott H. Schneider | Assistant Stage Director: James Blaszko* | Chorus Master: Michael C. Haigler

*Bronx Opera debut

Presented with the generous support of the New York State Council on the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; State Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz; and City Council member Andrew Cohen.

Commentary on "Regina":

From Opening Night Reviews

“’Regina’ is an opera in modern style written for lovers of music.” – Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times, November 1, 1949 (Broadway premiere)

“’Regina’ is one of the best operas any American has written.” – Howard Taubman, The New York Times, April 3, 1953 (New York City Opera debut)

Playwright Lillian Hellman on "Regina":

“'Regina' is no longer my play so perhaps I can speak of it here without modesty. It is, to me, the most original of American operas, the most daring. The theme of 'The Little Foxes' did not seem the proper subject for opera - although God knows what is a proper subject. And yet the bite and power of the music comments on the people in a wonderfully witty way, and the sad sweetness of the music for the ‘good characters’ makes them better.

“Mr. Blitzstein here, as in all his other work, has power and originality. 'Regina' is interesting – for me the best quality in any work – and it is sharp and clean. These are virtues badly needed in a theatre-music world where slickness sometimes makes cynicism sound pretty, and where the popular too often passes for the profound.”

The Bronx Opera

The Bronx Opera Company (BxO) was founded in 1967, and is currently the oldest non-Lincoln Center opera company in New York City. The mission of the BxO is to broaden the audience for the art form by keeping ticket prices low (no ticket costs more than $45); by performing all operas in English; and by bringing opera to schools in the Bronx through its Opera-in-the-Schools (OitS) Program.

BxO regards opera as fully integrated musical theater, to be experienced all at once, without the filter of surtitles. All productions are performed with full orchestra and chorus, fully staged and costumed. The company is open to all individuals to participate based on their talents and availability. In the words of Opera News, “The Bronx Opera’s crowd, like the company’s enthusiastic, sonorous chorus, is (hearteningly) among the most racially integrated to be seen in New York; encouraging the attendance of so many young people marks a positive contribution to the art form.”

Mark your calendar for the Bronx Opera’s spring 2016 production: Rossini’s "Cinderella" ("La Cenerentola") | Saturdays, April 30 and May 7 at 7:30 pm; Sundays, May 1 and 8 at 2pm | All performances at Lehman College’s Lovinger Theatre

For additional information, photos and interview requests, please contact Daniel Guss at daneguss@gmail.com or at 917-921-1468

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