Irish (and other) hearts are happy at Tara Erraught’s Vocal Arts recital

Wed Jan 10, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Tara Erraught performed Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater for Vocal Arts DC. Photo: Christian Kaufmann

Kudos to Vocal Arts DC for bringing Tara Erraught back to the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater on Tuesday night. The Irish mezzo-soprano was part of a lightweight recital for the Kennedy Center’s “Ireland 100” festival in 2016, but this concert provided a welcome chance to get to know her lushly colored voice in closer detail and worthier repertoire. This recital was also the debut of a new Vocal Arts element–the display of English translations for all the songs by supertitles.

Erraught’s powerful top range has blossomed beautifully, as displayed in the gripping opener, Liszt’s “Enfant, si j’étais roi.” The velvety legato tone she spun out on the second Liszt song, “Oh! Quand je dors,” was more gorgeous yet. The sensitive pacing of her compatriot pianist John O’Conor, enhanced the magical harmonic shifts in this piece, especially in the final phrase, marked by a careful crafting of tone at the keyboard.

A decade of training in Munich has given Erraught excellent German diction, which was featured in a set drawn from Hugo Wolf’s Mörike-Lieder. She floated the precarious melody of “Das verlassene Mägdlein” with an intense but soft grain in the tone. O’Conor’s right hand occasionally became tangled in the busy figuration of some of the faster songs, like the awkward repeated notes of “Begegnung.” But in the closing “Nixe Binsefuẞ,” a sort of comic counterpart to Schubert’s “Erlkönig,” pianist and singer were both irrepressibly playful in their approach.

In three songs by Roger Quilter, Erraught again deployed the lusty, big sound of her top range in the outer songs. The middle song, the gorgeous “Now sleeps the crimson petal,” again revealed the voice’s strength in weaving a slow, burnished strand of sound.

While her high notes have grown stronger, the bottom of the voice may have expanded in range but a Richard Strauss set revealed that it is still limited in volume. The rhapsodic “Allerseelen” was contemplative and sweet, but the big-throated sound Erraught produced in “Zueignung” faded somewhat at the low end.

Still, as she savored the union of text and suspended melodic line in both “Die Nacht” and the ever-present “Morgen,” the image of a subtle and lovely new Strauss voice emerged. The whole set inspired rarefied, excellent music-making from Erraught, with only the concluding song, the demanding “Cäcilie,” perhaps a bridge too far. Although the dramatic potential of her voice was still striking, the very top notes of the piece were here more strained.

The major discovery of the program was Giovanna d’Arco, a cantata from the fallow second half of Rossini’s life. Erraught first came to the United States for the 2015 production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola at Washington National Opera, and similar strengths and weaknesses came to the fore in this piece, set as a sort of dramatic opera scena. The slow aria, “O mia madre,” was a highlight, with the barnstorming conclusion noteworthy for the activity and accuracy of Erraught’s cascading runs.

At the same time, most of the beauty of Erraught’s tone disappeared in those melismatic passages, where efficiency trumped melodic line. Again the low writing was a challenge, but Erraught’s innate stage sense, the ability to tell a story in a captivating way, came through.

The Rossini led to enthusiastic ovations, which drew two sentimental encores: William Percy French’s “Gortnamona” and a heartfelt version of the eternal favorite, “Danny Boy.” Ireland’s new ambassador to the United States, Daniel Mulhall, who co-sponsored this concert, was in the audience and his were surely not the only Irish eyes smiling.

The next recital from Vocal Arts DC features soprano Dorothea Röschmann, 7:30 p.m. February 8.

One Response to “Irish (and other) hearts are happy at Tara Erraught’s Vocal Arts recital”

  1. Posted Jan 10, 2018 at 7:01 pm by Laura Youens

    What a lovely review. I’m sorry I missed this.

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