The 26-year-old was called “stocky” and “dumpy” by reviewers after performing as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier — a male role traditionally played by a female — at Glyndebourne Opera Festival.
Ms Te Kanawa, who recently made a guest appearance in British costume drama Downton Abbey, said Ms Erraught was “absolutely gorgeous” but had had a “costume disaster”.
Asked what she would say to Ms Erraught, Ms Te Kanawa told Radio 4’s Today show: “I’d say burn the papers, don’t listen to a single person, go and sit with friends who are absolutely lovely and love you. Don’t talk about this and get on with your life.”
She also pleaded with critics: “Please don’t destroy her, it’s cruel.”
One of the reviewers who criticised her appearance, Richard Morrison of The Times, said his description of her character as “unsightly and unappealing” had been taken out of context. He said he had been talking about “the characterisation of Octavian, not the woman playing her”.
However, he went on to say: “Several musicians I count as close friends... tell me that what I wrote would have upset greatly the promising young singer who took the role of Octavian. I regret that.”
The Independent reviewer had said Ms Erraught was “dumpy of stature”, although adding there was “no doubting her talent”. The Times used the phrase “unbelievable, unsightly, and unappealing”.
The reviewers were themselves criticised in an article in The Guardian, with claims that the language used “doesn’t reflect well... on our critics’ ability to respectfully review musical performance for its merits”.
In its review, The Guardian described Octavian as “stocky” and Ms Erraught as “miscast”.
The Dundalk woman has won numerous international awards and graduated from the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin before becoming a member of the opera studio at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in 2008.
Rosemary Collier, the executive director of Ireland’s Opera Theatre Company, said the reviews had “begrudgingly” paid tribute to Ms Erraught’s talent as a mezzo, when she was among a number of highly talented Irish mezzos and would prove to be “a rock star” in the opera world in years to come.
“Glyndebourne wanted a voice and by God she has the voice of her generation,” Ms Collier said. “
She said the role of Octavian is that of a teenage boy and said many great mezzos had played the role over the years and “none of them looked like teenage boys”. She added that issues of physique were “neither here nor there”.