The Greek National Opera announced that it will pay tribute to one of the greatest opera singers of the 20th century at a special ceremony in May 2015. Teresa Stratas, born to Greek parents in Canada will be included in an illustrious list of Greek opera singers honored by Greece.
Canada’s Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic, Robert Peck, saluted the announcement by the Greek National Opera that the Greek-Canadian opera legend will be honored. The tribute will highlight Ms. Stratas’ distinguished record of achievement in opera and will feature performances by leading Greek opera singers to be announced later. The GNO’s tribute is being organized with the support of the Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York, the Canadian Opera Company, Eurobank and Turkish Airlines.
“Teresa Stratas’ stellar career highlights the significant contribution of Greek-Canadians to Canada’s cultural life. Ms. Stratas’ talent as one of the greatest sopranos and singing actresses of all time, her caring for the desperately ill and humanity honour both Greece and Canada. I thank the Greek National Opera for its decision to celebrate her impressive achievements on the world stage, and to celebrate her Greek heritage,” said Ambassador Robert Peck said in a press release.
At the press conference announcing the GNO’s 2014/15 program, Mr. Myron Michailidis, GNO Artistic Director, said he was especially proud that a new institution in the GNO program will be inaugurated with “a tribute to the legendary Teresa Stratas, Greek-Canadian soprano with an impressive international career in opera and record performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York”.
Stratas was born Anastasia Stratakis to immigrant parents from Crete in Oshawa, Canada. At age 20, Stratas made her professional opera debut as Mimì in La bohème at the Toronto Opera Festival. One year later in 1959, she co-won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, appearing later that year with the Metropolitan Opera as Poussette in Manon. She created the title role in Peggy Glanville Hicks’ Nausicaa at the Herod Atticus Theatre in Athens in 1961, made her Covent Garden debut as Mimì that same year and in 1962, she made her La Scala debut as Isabella in Manuel de Falla’s L’Atlántida.
She continued her career with the Metropolitan Opera, moved into leading roles and performed with leading opera houses around the world, including the Bolshoi, Vienna State, Berlin, Bavarian State (Munich), Paris and San Francisco Operas as well as the Salzburg Festival. Over the course of her thirty-six year career at the Metropolitan Opera, she appeared in 385 performances of 41 different roles, including Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Despina in Così fan tutte, Cherubino and Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Liù in Turandot, Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly, Micaëla in Carmen, Marguerite in Faust, Desdemona in Otello, the title roles of Salome and Lulu.
Stratas is regarded as one of the foremost singing actresses of the twentieth century having performed with world acclaimed opera singers including Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo. In 1988, she recorded the role of Julie laVerne in EMI’s 3-CD set of the complete score of Kern and Hammerstein’s classic musical Show Boat, conducted by John McGlinn, the first-ever complete recording of the score, which critics acclaimed it as the finest recording of Show Boat ever made. Another performance, alongside Placido Domingo in La Traviata– a critically acclaimed performance captured on DVD at the Metropolitan Opera, was called at the time one of the best renditions of the Verdi classic.
In the 1980s Stratas travelled to Calcutta and worked with Blessed Mother Teresa in an orphanage and at the Kalighat Home for the Dying. In the 1990s she again took time from her career to move into a Romanian hospital to clean cots and wash and care for the sick and dying orphans.