Tara Erraught is enjoying a blossoming international career. Fresh from her Met debut, she comes home to Ireland to play Susanna in the Marriage of Figaro. Cathy Desmond met the mezzo in Munich
It’s a couple of hours before curtain up on Tara Erraught’s last performance in a run of Cosi fan tutte and the backstage corridors of the Bavarian National Theatre are full of activity as singers, stage hands and make-up artists bustle about getting ready for the evening performance.
We settle into her dressing room looking out on the swanky Maximilianstrasse for a chat. Munich is the Dundalk native’s home for the past ten years since she was plucked as an undergraduate from the Royal Irish Academy to join the opera studio there.
She demonstrated remarkable chutzpah early on when she jumped in at five days notice to sing Romeo in the premiere of a production of Bellini’s I Capuletti e i Montecchi, learning the part from scratch.
It was a tall order for the young singer not long out of usherette duties at the National Concert Hall. So tight was rehearsal time, the stage director talked her through her movements from a position hidden in an onstage pillar at the opening night. A decade later, she is a stalwart of the prestigious company with an extraordinary 33 role debuts under her belt as well as racing between New York, Vienna, Berlin and Salzburg.
Erraught in person is down to earth and vivacious. She exudes a sense of emphatic glee in her life as a busy singer without a trace of an ostentatious diva about her. There is a sense too of the steel that has taken her so far so fast.
Her schedule for the next few month’s is intense. “I had to pack today ‘til the end of May. Tomorrow I fly home to resume rehearsals on Figaro.”
During a break in performances in Ireland, she will fly back to sing a recital at Heidelberg and then she is in Berlin to sing in a special 50th anniversary production of The Barber of Seville before returning to Munich to sing in Parsifal. But there isn’t a hint of ennui at months living out of a suitcase.
“I love the travelling and now I find it easier when I’m returning to places where I know my way around.”
In a recent poll of top stars, she voted Mozart’s comedy of social and sexual power the best opera of all time but there was a particular reason that made the role of Susanna compelling for Tara.
“I never get the opportunity to sing roles that my teacher Veronica Dunne sang as our repertoire is so different. This is one role that she sang in Ireland. Mozart wrote for characters not voice types. Ronnie and I are similar in character. There’s a little bit of a divil in there.”
Among the colleagues that Erraught is especially looking forward to reconnecting with are two that cross the generations.
“I first met Ben McAteer when he was a boy studying with my first teacher Geraldine McGee in Dundalk. I am thrilled to be working with Suzanne Murphy who taught us all in the opera class. When I went to Vienna, there was a photograph of Suzanne playing Tosca at the artists’ entrance. I recognised it because Ronnie has the same one hanging over her piano.”
The sound of singers warbling in adjacent dressing rooms cues my exit, but not before this Susanna lets me in on the secret of where to find the best kaffee and kuchen in Munich. If you want to catch this ‘queen of belcanto’ on home turf, hurry to Wexford and Dublin. It might be a while before she is home again.
Le Nozze di Figaro is at National Opera House Wexford and Gaiety Theatre Dublin April 13-21. irishnationalopera.ie