Talking with singers: Tara ErraughtInterview
Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught is making a bit if history with her upcoming run as Susanna in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Irish National Opera, newly formed with the merging of two of Ireland’s most important producers, Wide Open Opera and Opera Theatre Company, presents Mozart’s operatic cornerstone as their first major new production. Erraught will make a much-anticipated return home for the production, marking a special combination of her work as an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano, and an artistic partner of INO.
We spoke with Erraught about the opera scene in Ireland, her evolving professional wish-list, and why an opera singer’s support system is as invaluable as a healthy instrument.
With a piece like Le nozze di Figaro, what balance do you find between comedy and drama?
In all acting you must throw yourself fully into the role, not playing funny or playing dramatic, simply being in the character, truly, drives the emotion, whatever that might be. In each situation you have to let the character drive the emotion. Your colleagues also play a part in how much that swings in and out between comedy and seriousness, as their reactions to you and vice versa are all organic and in the moment.
What is the current opera scene like in Ireland?
It is a very exciting time for opera in Ireland, as we are about to have our first premiere production from our new national opera company, Irish National Opera (INO). Ireland has a hugely fruitful legacy of opera singers, like Margaret Burke-Sheridan (who was famously loved by Puccini), William Michael Balfe (whom Rossini chose to sing Figaro in the Venice premiere of Barbiere), John McCormack… Veronica Dunne (whom I studied with and continue to work with), and Suzanne Murphy - all of who have taught a lot of Ireland’s current opera singers.
To have such a rich tradition of singers with big international careers, it was imperative that we find the opportunity to perform also at home. Fergus Sheil, Artistic Director of INO, has tirelessly fought to find a platform for Irish singers to be able to perform at home, and now we have it!
What do Irish audiences want to hear, and how well is opera supported by the public?
In my experience thus far, the audiences are very, very eager!
I have done many gala concerts with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin, and I have found the audience were so appreciative of every different type of repertoire I presented, which only adds to my excitement with the new opera company.
Ireland is a land of arts and culture - the arts are part of our DNA! Every school child learns to sing or dance or act or play an instrument - it’s part of our heritage. This new production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, where I shall sing Susanna, it is only my third operatic performance on home soil. I can, with my hand on my heart, say that Irish people are wonderful at supporting home grown talent.
Also, as an artistic partner of INO, I can bring the experiences I have learned abroad, home.
I fully credit my career to date to the strong arts foundation I received in Ireland. We have a wonderful tradition of church choirs, music, dancing and drama in schools, each child gets this artistic exposure. We also have a splendid tradition of Feis ceoil, which is Gaelic for music competition. It’s a wonderful performance opportunity for adults and children alike. You can compete in music, dancing and speech & drama. I feel these experiences and my musical education at the Royal Irish Academy fully prepared me to begin my professional career in Germany.
Do you have any roles or venues still on your career wish-list?
A lot! I would love to sing in ROH Covent Garden, and explore more of the US houses also. Repertoire wise, the wish list is endless! I would love to do some baroque repertoire, Ariodante, Ruggerio in Alcina, a lot of Handel. Also, more bel canto, Donna del Lago, Adalgisa in Norma, Orsini in Lucrezia Borgia, and of course I would love to do Romeo in Capuleti again!
But I am also looking forward to get to really know roles I have already debuted, like Octavian and Komponist. The more I work the more I can see that it is so enjoyable to revisit a role! It’s different every time.
What do you know now about the singing career that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
That it is very difficult to find sufficient calm time to study, so learn as much as you can as early as you can! If I think of the two roles I sing most, Rosina and Cenerentola, I learnt them both in college, I know them inside out, back to front and upside down. I had no idea at the time how valuable that study would be!
That it’s not just you who makes sacrifices for your career, but also your family.
It never gets easier to say no to an interesting offer, even though you may well know you don’t have the time, so your management team and your teacher are vital in guiding you at every step in what is a healthy decision, always. I feel so very lucky to have such a team around me, and had I known this ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been so worried about knowing what I could and couldn’t do.