Cher Public

I am not easily assimilated

ragsOn this day in 1986 the Charles Strouse / Stephen Schwartz / Teresa Stratas musical Rags opened on Broadway, to close after four performances. 

Born on this day in 1896 soprano Queena Mario.

Happy 98th birthday mezzo-soprano Miriam Pirazzini.

Happy 83rd birthday mezzo-soprano Janet Baker.


  • cefalu

    The musical that evidently showcased La Stratas’s talents as a ventriloquist…

  • laddie

    Happy Birthday Janet Baker! My first ever listen to Berlioz’s Les nuits d’étés

    • Camille

      I never bought the Janet Baker thing at all, until I saw her in person. Then, I could hardly believe what I saw and heard, as it was so different and so much MORE than I would have believed her capable of.
      Never to be forgotten, those Berliozian summer nights!

      Thank you, Dame Janet, and may the Force be with Thou!

      • mjmacmtenor

        I agree. I had already heard Janet Baker on many recordings (my father and I were into Delius, Vaughan Willliams, etc., so we knew the whole Brit recording “repertory company” of the 60s-70s) before I saw her live at Covent Garden in 1979 as Idamante in Idomeneo. The color of the sound! The fullness of the sound! Recordings did not do her justice.

      • Nelly della Vittoria

        I’ve always loved her recordings of L’ile Inconnue, in particular. And you saw her sing it live! Oh, I seethe.

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

          Nelly, I think you were responding to me. Gosh, I do hate to rub in stuff like this, but it was January 1971 and I had been to the matinee of “FroSch” at the Met but couldn’t score a ticket to hear Corelli in “Ernani” that night so I went next door to Philharmonic Hall and heard Barenboim conduct the NYP in a Haydn symphony, the “Nuits d’étes,” some Webern pieces, and the Bruckner Te Deum, in which Baker was one of the soloists.

        • Krunoslav

          I like Baker’s first recording of NUITS D’ETE a lot- it is on my shelf alongside Steber, Brigitte Balleys, von Stade, Gedda, Norman, de los Angeles, Bernarda Fink and Colin Davis set with Armstrong, Veasey, Patterson and Shirley-Quirk. (On LP I had several others, including The second Baker recording I felt was not one I especially needed to keep.

          Anyway, after several years of enjoying the Baker/Barbirolli I noticed that she makes a rare textual mistake in ‘Au cimetière’

          Un air maladivement tendre,
          A la fois charmant et fatal
          Qui vous fait mal
          Et qu’on voudrait toujours entendre

          Baker sings, “Qui vous *faites* mal”, as if “vous” is an addressed subject rather than the direct object of the verb clause. Odd that no one noticed. It’s still a *very* good performance!

          Given how much I love this cycle, it’s strange that I have only seen it done live twice:

          Susan Davenny Wyner w/Yehudi Wyner, piano, Tanglewood 1977
          Joyce DiDonato (who should record it) w/Alan Gilbert NY Phil, 2012

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

      And from me, too: my first ever live “Les nuits d’étés” (1971).

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        Correcting myself and some others: “Les nuits d’été.”

  • zinka

    So sad..Only 59, Dessi died of colon cancer..May she rest in peace!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Camille

    More amazing than the fact Teresa Stratas sang in a musical which had a grand total of four (4)! performances, and which I’d never ever heard of, is the dact she won a TONY for it! Is this trooooooooo??? Amaze-balls.

    • armerjacquino

      Nominated for a Tony, but didn’t win. She did win the Drama Desk award.

      I know the Oliviers have a minimum number of performances to be eligible (60, off the top of my head). I guess there’s no similar restriction for the Tonys.

      • PCally

        Marian Seldes earned a Tony Nomination in 1971 for a play called Father’s Day which ran exactly one performance (and only one preview apparently). It must have been a real mess.

        I might be mistaken but I’d read somewhere that in it’s initial development the role Stratas was playing was actually a supporting role.

      • The record for the shortest-lived performance to win a Tony for a leading role is held by Dolores Gray in Carnival in Flanders, which ran only six performances, closing September 12, 1953.

        He’s La Gray not quite a quarter century unfurling the one hit to emerge from the show.

        • Camille

          She’s really very good and ageless, to boot.

          Now where is La Valkyrietta, my guide to all things Delores Gray?

        • mjmacmtenor

          The shortest running show to win best musical was Passion at 282 performance. Hallelujah Baby! was probably second (293) with 9 nominations and 5 wins -- including best musical and best actress for Leslie Uggams. Passion won four Tonys out of 10 nominations.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      I never knew about it either. Here’s the full play list for 22 songs

    • Camille

      O Pfuiiiiiii! Now I put on my eyeglasses I see that it is so!!! Darn it! I had to squint to even see her name, so I guessed wrong, armer. Perdona!

      Still and all, after only four repetitions to even be nominated is a pretty hefty accomplishment.

  • Nero Wolfe

    I forget the exact title, but there is a library of TV and Broadway in Lincoln Center that used to only be open to scholars. I don’t know if access has opened up to the public. They have filmed most Broadway shows for decades now to preserve a record of them.

    I gained access to it and spent many days there. I recall watching Rags or excerpts of it. It also had Terence Mann, Larry Kert, and Judy Kuhn (all major Broadway talents). I recall that it was quite good, very moving in spots, but depressing and the score was not instantly memorable. There have certainly been worse shows that lasted much longer on Broadway.

    There must have been more to the story than just the 4 performances.

    • Will

      Rags is another show I have designed and it really isn’t a bad show at all. There’s one harrowing episode which is clearly a reference to the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, but there are some truly lovely moments. I don’t remember the details but I believe that Teresa Stratas was somehow responsible for the show closing — the fact that the studio recording with most of the original cast was made with Julia Migenes may also indicate that there was some problem with Stratas. The show opened and closed in 1986 but the cast album was not released until five years later in 1991.

      The show was overhauled two or three times by the creators and there have been other productions (viz. the one I designed) but it just hasn’t ever caught on.

      • Sound like there’s one harrowing episode where the producers run through the takings.

      • RosinaLeckermaul

        I have cherished the recording. Migenes sings beautifully and there’s some effective music. There’s a sense of overkill — big orchestrations and overselling some of the songs — probably the influence of the British pop epics of the 80s. I saw a production of a much revised version at the Guildhall School in London many years ago. I believe RAGS was one of the last shows to go into the Mark Hellinger before that lovely theatre, the home of MY FAIR LADY and countless flops (remember LEGS DIAMOND?), was turned into an evangelical church.

  • gustave of montreal

    What in the world was the great diva Stratas doing dans cette galère!

  • IMHO, Rags is a masterpiece as a score. I didn’t see the show so I’m not sure about the book. It’s a sequel of sorts to Fiddler On The Roof that tells what happened to the immigrants after coming to America. And the book is by the same author, Joseph Stein. It’s certainly my favorite Charles Strouse score. I think that part of the problem is that the show tried to tell too many stories which you can hear in the score. All of it is beautiful but it covers so much territory. The show includes the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, political corruption, assimilation, romance. The cast album is just gorgeous with Julia Migenes in for Teresa Stratas. And Migenes is just stunning. I was never a fan of Larry Kert but he’s okay . But to me, one of the great performances in Broadway history comes from the show and it’s Judy Kuhn singing the title song.

    • quoth the maven

      Sanford--I did see the show, and you’ve nailed the problem. It tried to cover too much territory. Since the plot threads were treated so cursorily, they didn’t deliver the necessary emotional wallop. And Stratas, for all that she was fascinating to watch, was a bit heavy-handed for a Broadway leading lady. But it was a nice score. I remember the title song vividly, and also “Blame It on the Summer Night,” which Stratas brought off nicely.