Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Tara Erraught

by BRIAN KELLOW

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Photographed by Dario Acosta in New York
Makeup and hair by Affan Malik
gown: Vera Mont; jewelry: Swarovski
© Dario Acosta 2014
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Glyndebourne bound: mezzo Tara Erraught
© Dario Acosta 2014

Tara Erraught's motor runs high: in conversation, her words spill out at a rapid pace, almost as fast as the notes spin out in the lyric-coloratura arias that are her specialty. At twenty-eight, the Irish mezzo is a popular fixture at Munich's Bayerische Staatsoper, where her roles include Sesto, Hänsel, Angelina and Nicklausse. After cleaning up in several voice competitions, Erraught auditioned for Munich without a word of German. At the time, she was only in her third year of undergraduate work, but when the offer came to join the company, her teacher in Dublin's Royal Irish Academy of Music, Veronica Dunne, persuaded her to take it and flew to Germany to work with her pupil at the end of every second week. "I'm blessed with Ronnie and her energy," says Erraught. "At the beginning, I was so nervous, I got sick on her lovely black shoes! She doesn't just give singing lessons, they're life lessons."

In May, Erraught opened Glyndebourne Festival's eightieth season, as Octavian in Richard Jones's new staging of Der Rosenkavalier. "They do it a minimum of twice a year in Munich," she says, "so I've gotten to see it with the most incredible casts and conductors. And in Munich, I study with Brigitte Fassbaender. She's constantly helping me to believe in myself and my musical ideas, although in Strauss, we spend more time with the language than the music." 

Erraught's streak of sprezzatura stood her in good stead when she was asked, while under a house contract in Munich, to learn the role of Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi in five days. Dunne advised her that if the chest voice didn't come, she should let it go rather than trying to darken the instrument artificially. "The Intendant told us, people will be understanding and know you're going to save the premiere for us," says Erraught. "The role is very low and very high all at the same time, and at twenty-four, there was no bottom. The conductor, Yves Abel, a wonderful, patient man, basically had an hour to teach me Bellini." She scored a big success in the role but admits, "When I'm around thirty would be a good time for me to take it out again and study it properly."

Erraught grew up just outside of Dundalk, near the border with Northern Ireland. "I remember when there was still big border control. That's been gone for years. There were a lot of bomb scares and things, but never anything terrible, thank God. I was in a youth orchestra, and we would use southern Irish girls and Northern Irish boys and Catholics and Protestants, mixing them all together. You knew by their accent where they were from. I was a competition addict, too, and I could never understand why my parents didn't want to travel to some of the places that weren't terribly safe. I just said, 'Let's go — let's go!'" spacer 

BRIAN KELLOW 

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Current Issue: August 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 2