I heard Teresa Stratas in her first professional appearance in Toronto back in 1958. She was fresh out of the Royal Conservatory Music School and it was her first attempt at Mimi - a role she soon made very much her own. She was always a singing actress and as she matured her ability to immerse herself in her characters became legendary.
She was also legendary for her frequent cancellations - including an important TV broadcast of Lulu, another signature role - and her frequent disappearances from the operatic scene. At one point she went to India and worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. At another she spent time in Roumania working at a orphanage for children with AIDS. She and fellow singer Roberta Peters looked after Sir Rudolf Bing when he was stricken with Alzheimer's. And her friendship and care for Lotte Lenya, the widow of Kurt Weill, sparked her interest in his music and led to a series of albums and concerts devoted to his music.
To my mind this is a perfect marriage of music and image:
And here she is as Mimi in the live broadcast of the famous Zeffirelli MET production of La Boheme, showing us why opera house directors where willing to put up with the cancellations et al. When she was there it was magic:
I was fortunate to see her often in Paris, Salzburg and Laurent and I saw here in one of her last appearances - Pelleas et Melisande at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1994. She still lives in New York City but has virtually retired from the stage.
07 maggio - Santa Flavia