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Subject: Re: BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TERESA STRATAS (Long)
From: [log in to unmask]
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Tue, 29 May 2001 16:55:54 EDT
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In a message dated 5/29/01 8:35:25 AM, [log in to unmask] writes:

<< Since I was not able to post this on 5/26, and no one else has remembered
this great artist, I want to remember the birthday of one of Canada's
greatest and most beloved singers, the great Lyric Soprano, Teresa Stratas,
born May 26, 1939.  It seems incredible that she is already 62.  Of the
singers of her generation, she was certainly one of the most committed and
moving singing actresses, who could portray the very essence of the character
in a fleeting moment, and break your heart.  I have never seen a more moving
Mimi in La Boheme (preserved on film in 1982).  Stratas was an extremely
versatile singer, who excelled in several languages, and left an indelible
stamp in many different roles, as diverse as, Cherubino and Susanna in
Mozart's Le Nozze, the Composer in Strauss' Ariadne, Puccini's Tosca,
Butterfly and Mimi, all three roles in Puccini's Il Trittico, Violetta in
Verdi's La Traviata, and Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.  Also, one
of the very few opera singers (Horne, Verrett and Von Stade, are amongst the
very few others) who could sing American classic standards effortlessly,
portrayed a heartbreaking Julie in the wonderful complete recording of
Showboat with Von Stade. Despite her diminuitive stature she was a riveting
dramatic presence on stage and could tear your heart out, whether it was as
Mimi, Butterfly, Tatiana or Violetta.  Sadly, I am too young to have seen her
live and when I tried, she had cancelled due to her frail health.  How lucky
we were to have her unique artistry grace our stages and our lives.  It would
be wonderful to hear from people who were privileged to see this great artist
live at her peak in opera, concert or recital.
 >>

Hello Jerry and List:

"Not A Day Goes By," as Sondheim's great song from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG best 
states it for me, that I don't think and thrill at the thought of Stratas in 
the performances I heard her in. I and others on the list, such as Rinda 
Kramme, are devoted FOS (Fans of Stratas) and cherish everything about this 
great singer, actress, artist, and humanitarian.

I missed citing her birthday because I too was not able. I thank you Jerry 
for mentioning it, as I believe you did last year. But my sources (I thought 
it was 1938 and then checked the Almanac just now and it also reads 38) 
indicate her birthday as May 26, 1938, which makes her 63.

I can say, next to Callas, no other artist in opera has moved me as greatly 
in my 50 years of opera going. While her voice itself did not reach the 
Callas range and dramatic force, Stratas was the greatest stage actress I've 
heard and seen. No one has convinced me so dramatically in the same way 
except perhaps Callas in Traviata.

I first saw Stratas on a cold and wintery afternoon in a recital at Orchestra 
Hall in 63 or 64. I knew absolutely nothing about her but she gave a 
wonderful recital in which she seemed young, very beautiful, and charming. 
She talked between the arias and discussed the text and meaning of the aria, 
which I found unusual but also revealing she was deeply involved in the 
emotional and dramatic core of the aria and character. It was more than music 
alone.

I thought nothing of her after that and in June 1969 attended the Salzburg 
Festival and one of the productions I saw was a somewhat controversial 
Ponnelle (for the time) Cosi Fan Tutte. It was musically superb and as far as 
I and the audience was concerned Despina stole the show; it was not until a 
few days later that I realized on a train to Munich it was that same "girl" I 
heard in recital a few years earlier.

I didn't really follow her career but, by then I moved to San Francisco, and 
in 76 Adler announced that this new tenor, Carreras, was going to be singing 
in Boheme and was being hailed as the next great tenor (he had sung a few 
performances at the NYCO to noteworthy reviews). The Mimi remained 
unannounced for some time and finally a press release announced that it would 
be Stratas.

Adler had engaged her in several roles before I moved here so I knew nothing 
of the Madame Butterfly that she had sung here to great reviews. Adler, to 
those who don't know his particular talents, had an uncanny ability to match 
personas and voices of singers in specific productions. By that time, I 
really hated Boheme because I had seen it too many times (including with 
Tebaldi) and it was always unconvincing  
to me unless I closed my eyes.

I went to the Boheme in an unenthused state but wanted to hear the new 
Spanish tenor. Little did I know that this Boheme would change my life and 
opinion of opera forever; it was as engaging dramatically as any play I'd 
ever seen and as sexy as any French cinéma of the era. I fell in love with 
Boheme and more importantly I fell in love with Stratas and Carreras, going 
back again with friends (I have only revisited the same opera in a single run 
3 times in my life).

They were both young, sexy, and engagingly perfect for their roles (the Met 
broadcast some years later missed the sexiness, youth, and exuberance of that 
first pairing of S and C). The two took their curtain calls together, kissing 
and hugging as they did with great frequency in the performance. 

There was absolutely no doubt in my—or the audience's—mind that there was 
real PASSION and SEX between these two. The line of art and reality was 
blurred. This was the production Bruce Yarnell was the youthful and exuberant 
Marcello. It was the seminal (double-entendre intended!) production of Boheme 
for me.

This production made me a raving Stratas fan and I agree with Ken Wolman's 
assessment of that great meeting of Stratas and Vickers in the first telecast 
in the 70s of Pagliacci. It was the same production as the later filmed one 
with Domingo and the more recent telecast with Pavarotti but the original had 
a rawness and intensity that was one of the most compelling opera productions 
ever televised.

It has to be seen to be appreciated, and I hope someday it is available. The 
film especially disappoints because it is prettified and lacks the passion of 
Stratas and Vickers. Who can forget her running around the stage in a rage in 
her dirty, bare feet? It was a scene from an Italian Neo-Realist film.

I never saw her Met work and that's a great regret for me but luckily much of 
it was recorded. I was again amazed by the Unknown Weill that she recorded 
after a recital with Richard Woitach. I was again floored by this new 
perspective on a composer I hadn't much cared for till then. Following her 
Lulu performances, she saw the relationship, historical and emotional, 
between Berg and Weill that to my knowledge no other artist has recognized. 
It was a continuation of Berg's decadence. 

Weill seemed closer to Berg and the Modern/German Romantic movement after 
hearing that recording. Her range of emotional color convinced me of the 
talent and art of Weill. Whereas previously I heard the popular, cabaret 
connection, Stratas brought these songs to a level of great art song (more 
songs more than others).

I can forget her cancellations, her stubbornness, her (valid) illnesses but I 
cannot forget her great intensity and piercing dramatic talents that for me 
are everlasting art. She has made my life richer and full as only a few 
artists have. Happy belated birthday! 

Jonathan Dorsch
San Francisco, CA
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