Opera Scotland

Regina 1991Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Regina

The 1990/91 season of Scottish Opera featured nine operas, most notably the world premiere of a new piece by Judith Weir, The Vanishing Bridegroom and the British premiere of an unknown American work, Regina by Mark Blitzstein. The three other new productions were Les Troyens, Fidelio and Falstaff. There were also revivals of Tosca, The Cunning Little Vixen and The Barber of Seville. It was also the first season in which the company introduced supertitles, though not yet when the sung language was English.

While John Mauceri was Music Director of Scottish Opera, the company mounted two excellent productions of American works, Bernstein’s Candide, directed by Jonathan Miller (1988), and Weill’s Street Scene, directed by David Pountney (1989). There was a widespread assumption that a third piece, if not an entire series, would follow. A number of American works were in need of revival and of a British or European premiere. It seems that Mauceri gave the management a shortlist of several possibilities, and the board selected Regina. Not only was this a European premiere, but it was also a work little performed in the USA, and without a definitive performing text. An undoubted advantage by comparison with, say, Samuel Barber’s Vanessa or Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, was that Lillian Hellman's source play, The Little Foxes, was a known quantity, both through the famous Hollywood version starring Bette Davis, and a number of theatrical revivals at various reps around Scotland. Perhaps Barber's Antony and Cleopatra would have been a safer choice, but still, all the omens seemed good, including the fact that, as with Street Scene, Decca were to make a studio recording in Glasgow, with a team of specially imported American stars, including Katharine Ciesinski (Regina), James Maddalena (Oscar), Sheri Greenawald (Birdie), and Samuel Ramey (Horace).

Sadly, the outcome was rather a disappointment, if not a fiasco. The problem certainly did not lie with Robert Carsen’s beautiful and effective staging, nor with the large cast of singers who created a range of believable characters. Nor was there a problem with the musical performance, since Mauceri produced superb playing from the orchestra, including extensive sections of jazz-influenced music. The difficulty clearly lay with the work itself. It started very effectively, but the fundamental problem was that just at the point where a real opera reaches a dramatic climax and the music emphasises and reinforces that, Blitzstein seemed to run out of steam – the scene where Regina hounds Horace into suffering a fatal heart attack was delivered largely as dialogue, and the piece ultimately just fizzled out. Even so, the critical mauling the enterprise received was surprisingly vicious. Not only was Regina not revived, but no more American pieces were tried, and even the successful Candide and Street Scene disappeared without trace.

Performance DatesRegina 1991

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

16 May, 19.15 18 May, 19.15 21 May, 19.15 23 May, 19.15

Theatre Royal, Newcastle | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

20 Jun, 19.15

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2017

Site by SiteBuddha