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Regina. Anyone lucky enough to catch Lyric Opera Cleveland's final performance of Marc Blitzstein's Regina (ending July 15) will find his artistic soul expanding at the same rate as the Grinch's heart after he discovered the joys of Christmas. Composed in 1949, it's a plangent retelling of Lillian Hellman's stage melodrama The Little Foxes. Blitzstein, one of America's most underrated composers, embellishes hard-edged steel with musical velvet in Regina. Using Joplin-esque ragtime, Copland Americana, Gershwin Porgy and Bess sashaying, and, above all, old-time spirituals, he adds an extra dimension of tenderness and psychological depth to Hellman's story. Judging from his hard-edged, lean direction, new Artistic Director Gary Race is truly an artistic director. He is surely responsible for the production's tensely strung vision. There is also a surefire secret weapon in an ideal cast, headed by dramatic soprano Patti Jo Stevens as the eponymous matriarch.

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