Regina – New York City Opera Revival 1958
Prologue Late morning, the veranda of the Giddens house in Bowden, Alabama; spring, 1900. The scene is filled with easy spiritual and early ragtime singing. The music is interrupted by the appearance of Regina Giddens, who rudely breaks the spell of friendly pleasure. Act I Regina gives a dinner party for the guest from “up North” – Marshall, a financier. Present at the party arc Regina’s two brothers, Ben and Oscar Hubbard, Oscar’s wife Birdie, his son Leo, and Alexandra, Regina’s daughter. They are completing a business deal with the usual social amenities. As soon as Marshall takes his leave, Regina and her two brothers fall to counting the spoils greedily. It appears Regina’s share depends on her husband, the banker Horace Giddens, now ill with heart trouble at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Regina concocts a plan to send her daughter Alexandra to fetch him. Birdie, Oscar’s wife, hears the Hubbards plotting to marry Alexandra off to Leo in order to keep the money in the family. When she reveals the plot to Alexandra, Oscar overhears her and slaps her across the face. Act II, Scene 1 Some days later. Regina plans a ball for the returning Marshall. She is furious because Alexandra and Horace have not yet arrived from Baltimore and is in a state of feverish excitement preparing for the ball. Leo and Oscar discuss the possibility of Leo’s stealing some bonds from his uncle Horace, at whose bank he works. Horace and Alexandra arrive; he is tired and ill. After much welcoming, Regina gets Horace alone. After a scene of embarrassed reconciliation, she makes it clear why she has wanted him home: for his approval and signature in the matter of the Marshall deal. He refuses. Now the scene changes in full view. Act II, Scene 2 It is the ball. The townspeople demonstrate their hatred of the Hubbards whose victims and guests (tonight) they are. Horace, from his wheel chair, instructs his bank manager to bring his safe-deposit box around next morning; he plans to change his will. Negro workers peep through the windows. Birdie is once again insulted by Oscar; Addie the housekeeper comforts her. Regina, angered by Horace’s refusal to consent to the business deal, flirts with an old suitor in his presence. Leo returns, having stolen the bonds; Ben takes them, and informs Marshall the deal is settled. Marshall takes his leave, calling Regina his “dear business partner,” leaving her speechless and at a loss. A wild Gallop of the guests commences; during it, Regina turns in rage on Horace and tells him she hopes he dies. Act III The “good” people (Horace, Alexandra, Addie and Birdie) enjoy a quiet afternoon with wine and cookies; it is raining outside. Birdie drinks too much wine, and in an access of revelation and self-hatred, confesses she has taken to solitary drinking because of her fate at the hands of the rapacious Hubbards. Regina appears. Horace shows her the safe-deposit box with the bonds missing; he knows Leo has stolen them for Ben and Oscar. Regina is savagely vindictive; but Horace insists that “as long as he lives” he will say he lent the brothers the bonds. Now Regina sees he must die. She taunts him into a heart attack – and stands motionless, doing nothing, as he tries to save himself. He collapses, and she calls for Addie and Cal, the butler, to carry him upstairs. Ben, Oscar and Leo enter and discover the box; they realize Horace knows of the theft. Regina descends the stairs and tells them she too knows. She calmly announces that if Horace dies she will demand the largest share. Alexandra and Addie come slowly down the stairs; it is clear Horace has died. Now Regina pushes her point relentlessly. She says that either her brothers will give her what she wants or she will put them all in jail. Ben gives in, and Oscar and Leo have no choice but to do the same. Regina and Alexandra are left alone. The daughter has seen through the whole shabby affair. She confronts Regina at last, accuses her, and announces her independence. She will go away. The Negro workers are heard outside, singing “Certainly, Lord.”
Regina Giddens: Brenda Lewis, soprano Alexandra Giddens (Zan): Helen Strine, soprano Birdie Hubbard: Elisabeth Carron, soprano Addie: Carol Brice, contralto Horace Giddens: Joshua Hecht, bass Benjamin Hubbard: George Irving, baritone Oscar Hubbard: Emile Renan, baritone Leo Hubbard: Loren Driscoll, tenor Cal: Andrew Frierson, baritone William Marshall: Ernest McChesney, tenor Chorus of townspeople, field workers, etc.