Dundalk’s Tara Erraught was greeted by, from left, Matt Haroldsen, Nicky Zann, Hyesang Park and Grant Chaput at a late supper celebration following the show. PHOTO: PETER MCDERMOTT
By Orla O’Sullivan
If you’re going to make your classical music debut in New York, where better than at Carnegie Hall? So it was last Friday for Tara Erraught, the mezzo-soprano from Dundalk, considered a fast-rising opera star.
Erraught sang not in the main auditorium but the Weill Recital Hall to the side, a 268-seat venue more suited to a solo singer with piano accompaniment (in this instance, by Henning Ruhe). She enjoyed an almost full house and an appreciative audience -- including Ambassador Anne Anderson and Consul General Barbara Jones — that demanded three encores.
Erraught came to prominence in 2011 during an opera performance in Munich, where she is based. She won great acclaim after stepping in at five days' notice as Romeo in Bellini's “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” for the Bavarian State Opera. She has been praised for her rich voice, expansive range and appealing stage presence.
Her profile rose further when she found herself at the center of what the New Yorker termed “a fat-shaming controversy” after reviews of Erraught’s suitability to play Octavian, a male or “trouser” role, in “Der Rosenkavalier” at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in England went viral. Everyone praised her singing but five critics faulted her appearance: an attitude summed up in a New York Times headline as “Too Much Looking, Not Enough Listening?”
Leaving aside the appropriateness of these critiques, they certainly seemed not to apply to Erraught on Friday. She stood before Ruhe’s Steinway, her hair up, elegant in a French-navy, floor-length chiffon dress with a diamante cinch waist
[caption id="attachment_81512" align="alignnone" width="300"] Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson chatted with the mezzo-soprano’s uncle John Erraught at the post-show event. PHOTO: PETER MCDERMOTT[/caption]
As one who does not frequent such recitals, it felt a bit like being cast into a scene from Jane Austen: the singer by the piano, the room creamy-gold with floor-length tasseled curtains and a high, stucco ceiling with three, enormous chandeliers. Indeed, Carnegie Hall markets its young singers’ series, Salon Encores, as one that “revives a tradition [of] the 19th century, when friends gathered in elegant chambers to hear intimate performances.”
I smiled to read that Erraught told the Echo in an interview at the time of her U.S. debut at Washington National Opera in DC in May that she is “an embroidery fan.” Not a typical hobby for a 29-year old today.
Her presence, however, is notably lively, audience members who frequent Carnegie’s Salon Encores remarked. Erraught is as much actress as singer, they agreed.
Savanna Hajdasz, an 18-year old freshman at Fordham University, found herself at the recital by chance, having picked it for a music-class assignment simply because it was the easiest to get to from the Bronx. “I found the recital to be much more engaging than previous ones I have attended - as though I were a part of the performance and not just a listener,” she said. Hajdasz, originally from Middlebury, Conn., appeared to be the youngest audience member by a long way.
Erraught engaged with the audience much more in the second half, even inviting them to vote for either an aria or a song for her final encore. An operatic piece was chosen over a standalone song.
The evening opened in art-song tradition, with a song based on a poem by Victor Hugo. "Enfant, Si J’étais Roi" (“My Child, Were I a King”) was the first set to music by Franz Liszt. Erraught then switched to English composer Frederick Delius.
The theme of the sea featured often, offering Erraught roiling depths. She also was mischievous in a fleeting account of “What Love Is,” drawing a laugh.
The second half was Brahms, then Erraught’s collection of famous pieces by Strauss. Before these she commented on composer’s significance to her. The first time she listened to Strauss, she had a sort of "out of body experience," she said, but was leery of singing them because she did not feel she had mastered German well enough for the music, until now.
And, for good measure, she sang "Danny Boy, dedicating it to those who have supported her throughout her career.
Afterwards, at a late supper celebration, Erraught treated that smaller audience to a rendition of Percy French’s “Gortnamona.”