We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Tara Erraught (photo by Kristin Speed)

Some singers are equally adept at opera and art song recitals whereas others come off better in one or the other situation. We have no complaints whatsoever about the lovely recital given by Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught in her New York debut at Weill Recital Hall; but we did, however, notice a greater sense of involvement during the encores when she sang two operatic arias, the kind of involvement that says "I'm having fun and I hope you are too".

The first encore was Annetta's aria from Michael Balfe's Falstaff. We were previously unacquainted with the works of this Irish composer but we hope to remedy this situation in the future. Mr. Balfe wrote this opera in 1838, long before Verdi took it on. It is replete with thrilling bel canto flourishes and we are highly grateful to Ms. Erraught for bringing it to our attention.

We wonder if Mr. Balfe's opera might have achieved greater popularity had it not been eclipsed by Verdi's late life masterpiece. We have learned that Ms. Erraught sang this role in a recording recently made of the opera. (It is interesting that Salieri also wrote a Falstaff which was produced by Dell'Arte Opera Company in the summer of 2014). Shakespeare's works are nothing if not inspiring!

In any case, Ms. Erraught sang it with abundant charm and impressed us with her accurate handling of the florid fioritura. Similarly, (after singing Danny Boy-- and how could she not?) her performance of "Non piu mesta" from Rossini's Cenerentola was riveting.

And what shall we say about the recital per se? There was plenty to enjoy but nothing reached the heights achieved during the two operatic encores. We thought Ms. Erraught's instrument is the most soprano-y mezzo we have heard recently; her performance of six early songs by Richard Strauss impressed us with her passion and purity of tone. There is plenty of drama in these songs and the varying moods were captured--the anxiety of "Die Nacht", the enticements of "Ständchen", the longing of "Allerseelen", the passion of "Zueignung".

She opened the program with a set of songs by Liszt, who was wise enough to choose poets like Victor Hugo, Friedrich von Schiller, and Heinrich Heine. The songs were quite well performed except when the enthusiastic piano of collaborative pianist Henning Ruhe overwhelmed Ms. Erraught's voice. When the piano became more ruhevoll, she sounded fine--but it is a slender instrument.

There were two songs by Frederick Delius that were marked by some splendid English diction. The texts, based on Norwegian tales, rhymed and scanned such that Ms. Erraught was able to make good sense of them with apt phrasing. We loved the horn call in Mr. Ruhe's piano in "Twilight Fancies".

There was also a set by Roger Quilter who likewise chose his texts well.  One cannot go wrong with Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Shelley!

Brahms' songs are always a pleasure to hear and lend themselves to simple unfussy delivery which Ms. Erraught gave them--with the exception of "Mädchenfluch" which rose to the heights of passion. Perhaps we could sum things up by saying that Ms. Erraught does best when she is less measured and enjoys her passion.

(c) meche kroop

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