Stratas, Teresa

Teresa Stratas, née Anastasia Stratakis, soprano (b at Toronto 26 May 1938). Daughter of Greek immigrant restaurateurs, Stratas began as a singer of Greek pop songs and had ambitions of becoming a nightclub singer. However, after studies at Toronto's ROYAL CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC in 1954-1958, she won the prestigious Eaton Graduating Scholarship, made her operatic debut as Mimi in La Bohème at the 1958 Toronto Opera Festival and was co-winner of the Metropolitan Opera auditions in March 1959. After her debut at the Met in 1959, Stratas sang more than 40 major roles there. She appeared at Vancouver's International Festival in 1960 and sang Desdemona in Otello at EXPO 67.

Among her many international appearances, Stratas sang at La Scala, the Bolshoi Opera, the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Bavarian State Opera, the San Francisco Opera and the Salzburg Festival. At the Paris Opera, May 1979, she performed the title role in the premiere of the complete version of Alban Berg's Lulu. She appeared in Norman CAMPBELL's CBC television production of La Rondine (1972) and in numerous opera films and videos, including Franco Zeffirelli's La Traviata (1983), and in a New York musical, Rags (1986), for which she received a Tony Award nomination for best actress in a musical. In 1991 she created the role of Marie Antoinette in the Metropolitan's premiere of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles. Her many recordings include Berg's Lulu, Mozart's Così fan tutte, Verdi's Otello and the widely acclaimed The Unknown Kurt Weill.

Stratas's lyric soprano voice combined with her powerful stage persona ensured performances that were rich in subtlety and intelligence. Injury to her vocal apparatus resulting from a surgical procedure in 1995 has curtained her performing career. She became an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1972, was named artist of the year by the Canadian Music Council in 1980, and was presented with a Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 2000. In 1981 she travelled to India, where she joined Mother Teresa to care for the terminally ill, and later the same year she turned her attention to nursing Lotte Lenya in her last days.