Regina - 1958 New York City Opera Cast Recording (George S. Irving)
Composer: Marc Blitzstein
Lyricist: Marc Blitzstein
We here at Footlight rank this one in the Top 5 All Time Greatest, if not The Top Three! It's a score that keeps on giving and giving! A rare treat and a thrilling adaptation of the Hellman play! BRILLIANT!
Many important plays get “musicalized.” That is, a composer and lyricist-adaptor, having found enough lyrical quality in a prose piece, supply it with music and rhymed words. In most instances they substitute with song what had been dialogue. When this is done effectively (in terms of faithful story telling) it is said that the adaptors have achieved “integration.”
In turning The Little Foxes into Regina, Marc Blitzstein has accomplished something much more. Beyond delivering neat musical capsules that conveniently paraphrase steps in the narrative, Blitzstein gives a special magic illumination to the whole thing, making the already enormous emotion of the story even more wonderfully memorable than before.
I think this is because Blitzstein knows that the very purpose of song is to provide extravagant but somehow clear expression for emotional outburst. Time and time again in Regina, the composer adaptor has found these outbursts and made them resound unforgettably for me. Some are like bells, others like thunder, some piteous and some sprightly, some viciously angry and others full of heroic triumph. But altogether they form more than a chain or series of illuminations. They make a bright new cloth out of the whole strong fabric of the original play – always true to its meaning, but never giving slavish or pious adherence to the mechanics of it. I think that this is the adaptor’s special ability.
Blitzstein has made a sort of giant song of the entire piece – consciously and deftly. Yet along with his astounding craftsmanship, he has poured in all his sense of the emotional, his instinct for finding and coloring those exclamation points in human drama (tragic or comic) at which the speaking voice can no longer contain itself and emerges as music. With the same profound talent for the dramatic, his orchestral writing delivers not only an accompaniment to what is happening on stage, but the very feel and smell of it. I’m thinking at this moment of the hysterical melancholy of Birdie’s “Lionnet” solo. Musing further, I recall the insistent sound of the wild percussion accompaniment to Horace’s death scene. And now my mind fastens on the frighteningly inane quality Blitzstein achieved in a passage called “Deedle Doodle,” In these, as well as in many more moments of wonder I get out of Regina, is reflected not mere craftsmanship or know-how. It is something animal and free. It does not have to reach for the cleverness of “integration.” The integrity is in the soul – or the guts or the heart or whatever you want to call it – of Blitzstein himself.
R E V I E W S:
"...with its tuneful, easily accessible score, its dance, jazz and folk elements and its abundance of spoken dial ogue, Regina resists easy classification, occupying a middle ground between opera and musical theater. Regina has been treated best by New York City Opera, where two successful revivals, using the original 1949 Broadway sets, took place during the 1950s. This classic recording was made during the second of these revivals, in 1958. Although the version of the score used here differs substantially from both the Broadway original and the more complete recording conducted by John Mauceri in 1992, this remains an uncommonly satisfying souvenir of a great, neglected American opera. Blitzstein was very much a man of the theater, and the vibrancy of this work and this performance leap out at the listener across six decades."
-- Eric Myers, Opera News
Works on This Recording
1. Regina by Marc Blitzstein
Performer: Emile Renan (Baritone), Joshua Hecht (Bass), Carol Brice (Mezzo Soprano),
Brenda Lewis (Soprano), Helen Strine (Soprano), Elizabeth Carron (Soprano),
George Irving (Baritone), Loren Driscoll (Tenor), Andrew Frierson (Baritone),
Ernest Mcchesney (Tenor)
Conductor: Samuel Krachmalnick
Orchestra/Ensemble: New York City Opera Orchestra, New York City Opera Chorus
Period: 20th Century
Date of Recording: 4/28/1958
CUSTOMER REVIEW: "I cannot recommend this recording highly enough. Superb performances from the entire cast, and Brenda Lewis as Regina is a standout. I received this release from Arkiv two days ago, and have already played both discs through 3 times - the haunting and beautiful Blitzstein score draws you in and bewitches you. If you are even contemplating buying this title, then I urge you to go ahead and pop it in your shopping cart. You won't be disappointed. 5 out of 5 stars. *****"