Regina kicks off a greedy year

By Christie Franke, Red Pulse Writer

A rare occurrence in the world of opera is happening this month8212;an opera set in America and sung in English. Furthermore, it’s an opera with deep ties to Utah’s music scene. No, not the greed, betrayal and murder in the plotline, but in the history of the opera itself. Utah Opera, in conjunction with the Utah Symphony, presents Marc Blitzstein’s “Regina”, which was originally conducted on Broadway by former Utah Symphony music director Maurice Abravanel.

“Regina” is a story of greed, set in the deep South in 1900. Regina Giddens will go to any length necessary to win herself money. Willing to risk her family, particularly her ailing husband Horace, Regina joins with her brothers, Ben and Oscar, in convincing a wealthy Northern businessman, Mr. Marshall, to invest his money in a joint venture to open a cotton mill. Marshall agrees, charmed by Regina’s dream of one day moving to Chicago and entering high society. The only trouble is Regina and her brothers have to come up with their share of the money necessary for the investment, which she doesn’t have. Regina needs her husband’s permission to go into the venture, but he is unwilling to give her the money. After much manipulation and bargaining, Ben and Oscar pressure Regina into marrying her daughter, Zan, to Oscar’s son, Leo. The only other option is to back out of the partnership, which Regina is opposed to doing.

As opera would have it though, Regina’s dying husband flat-out refuses to give her any money. Her brothers accordingly cut Regina out of the deal and replace her with Leo. When Horace returns, it is revealed that Regina’s brothers stole money from him. He confronts Regina about this, tells her he is leaving everything to Zan, and that the money now invested will be her sole inheritance from him. Both are agitated, and when Horace reaches for his heart medication to help calm himself, he breaks the bottle. His pleas with Regina for help are futile. She merely turns her back as Horace collapses, thus becoming responsible for his death8212;murder by inaction.

In the end, Regina gets her shares in the business back (threatening to turn against them unless they give her 75 percent of the business income). Oscar and Ben agree, but refuse to have anything more to do with her. Furthermore, Zan refuses to accompany her mother to Chicago. She realizes that her mother was the reason Horace died of a heart attack. Regina is a wealthy woman at last, but she has lost her family to her greed.

“Regina” premiered on Broadway in 1949. A mix of operatic singing and Broadway musicality, it originally received mixed reviews and ended after a two-month run. Blitzstein reworked the opera several times, coming to emphasize the operatic tone instead of the Broadway. Originally based on the play “The Little Foxes” by Lillian Hellman, the opera was described by Leonard Bernstein as “coating the wormwood with sugar, and scenting with magnolia blossoms the cursed house.”

“Regina” contains many themes: greed, the American Dream, sibling rivalry, manipulation and the stereotypical view of women as shrewish harpies willing to destroy men to get what they want. It also contains a slightly different take on opera, as mentioned. The music is a mixture of many different styles, from ragtime to spiritual to classic Broadway to classic opera. The wide range of styles makes “Regina” quintessentially American in tone.

“Regina” premieres at Capitol Theatre on Jan. 17, with further performances on the 19, 21 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. and the 25 at 2 p.m. Visit for more information, or call 801-533-NOTE. Tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances are $15-$83, while tickets for Monday and Wednesday performances are $13-$83. Call 801-533-NOTE (533-6683) for student tickets, or visit the Web site. Have fun, it’s opera season.

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