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Chautauqua Opera continues to probe the theme of "Operatic Family Values" with one of the best and most underrated American operas, Marc Blitzstein's "Regina." The two performances in Norton Hall will be at 7:30 p.m. next Friday and July 21. "Regina" is Blitzstein's 1949 adaptation of Lillian Hellman's 1939 "The Little Foxes," set in 1900 Alabama and concerned with three siblings in the Hubbard family, which is, if not dysfunctional, so obsessed with infighting over control of a proposed new cotton mill that they will not stop at theft or purposely provoking a fatal heart attack to attain their ends. The scenario is a natural heart-wringer, with a minority of innocent, gentle folk mercilessly bulldozed by a malicious, mercenary majority. But Blitzstein makes this dichotomy all the more poignant by adorning the drama with music that balances the intense moments of searing crisis with others of a lyrical, folklike simplicity. Much of the music has a tunefully hummable quality that makes it quite memorable.

Director Jay Lesenger has booked the internationally esteemed soprano Ashley Putnam to sing the title role of Regina Hubbard Giddens, with bass Michael Devlin as her ill-fated husband, Horace. Philip Cokorinos and Sheryl Woods will be the conspiratorial Oscar Hubbard and his timid wife, Birdie, with Karla Burns as the black servant Addie. William Fred Scott is the conductor. In 1982 Cynthia Auerbach directed a superb "Regina" at Chautauqua. I have enough faith in Jay Lesenger to gamble the opinion that this one will likely be as good or better.

-- Herman Trotter

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