Lillian Hellman on Regina

I had never seen music in The Little Foxes, never thought of it that way. And so, a long time ago, when Marc Blitzstein said he wanted to make an opera of the play, I don’t know, or I don’t remember, why I said yes. Like most writers, I don’t like very much to have my work touched by anybody else; and the play was far behind me and I didn’t want to think about it anymore.

I knew very little about Regina - Mr. Blitzstein played it for me, but not all of it - before its opening night on Broadway. I had first-night nerves, an extra edginess, and when a friend told me that Birdie’s third act confession scene was more touching with music than it had been without music, I was a little jealous. I suppose most of us don’t like to hear that we’ve been improved upon.

It took me many years, and a number of performances, truly to understand all that is good about Regina. It was only in 1958, at the City Center, in its latest and I think best interpretation - perhaps because it was directed by Herman Shumlin and designed by Howard Bay, both of whom had done the original play - that I fully appreciated Regina.

Regina is no longer my play so perhaps I can speak of it here without modesty. It is, to me, the most original of American operas, the most daring. The theme of The Little Foxes did not seem the proper subject for opera - although God knows what is a proper subject. And yet the bite and power of the music comments on the people in a wonderfully witty way, and the sad sweetness of the music for the "good characters" makes them better.

Mr. Blitzstein here, as in all his other work, has power and originality. Regina is interesting - for me the best quality in any work - and it is sharp and clean. These are virtues badly needed in a theatre-music world where slickness sometimes makes cynicism sound pretty, and where the popular too often passes for the profound.