Opera singers are much like athletes – they make their job look incredibly easy but in reality there is a huge amount of training and self-care required in order to perform at a peak level. Unlike rock stars who party all night opera singers have to take care of their voice and you would imagine that this is very tricky in a world where vocal communication is a necessary evil. However Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught seems to have it down to an art form.
“You wouldn’t be spending time in noisy environments,” she says, “and I’m conscious of not going anywhere I have to shout. I’m a great believer in steaming and I would always make sure hotels I was staying in had that facility and I drink a huge amount of water – probably about 4 litres a day. But I wouldn’t avoid talking to people or anything. I’m using my ‘support’ when I sing which is what I was trained to do and I use the same technique when I’m talking so I’m not damaging my voice.”
While that all sounds pretty simple she does admit it is harder when it comes to big occasions like family events or friends’ parties saying: “Of course you go but you just try and keep a bit quieter. If I knew I was going to something like a wedding though I would have to make sure I had the day off after it in order to recover properly. I’d need to give myself that rest.”
Clearly Tara’s discipline is paying off though as she is widely regarded as a rising star on the opera scene. A graduate of the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, where she continues to study, the Dundalk native has so far enjoyed huge international acclaim and has won multiple awards. In spring 2013, she was awarded the prestigious Pro meritis scientiae et litterarum in recognition for outstanding contribution to the arts by the Bavarian government. In March of 2010 she was the recipient of Dublin’s National Concert Hall’s Rising Star Award and other honours include winning First Prize in the Jakub Pustina International Singing Competition in the Czech Republic, along with the Zdar nad Sazavou Audience Prize in 2008. In that same year she was awarded both the Houston Grand Opera Prize and the Washington National Opera Prize at the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in Vienna. Meanwhile in 2007 she won the Dermott Troy Award for the Best Irish Singer.
Obviously these accolades mean she is hugely in demand worldwide. However she is soon to perfrom in her homeland when she takes to the stage of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre playing Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville which is being produced by Wide Open Opera. As difficult as it is to believe this will actually be her first complete opera role in Ireland! Wide Open Opera have previously enjoyed critical and commercial success with their productions of Tristan & Isolde (2012) and Nixon in China (2014), and the award-winning and visionary Irish opera company are putting a very special spin on this production by setting it in the 1970s! Forget about any visions of stuffiness or corsets that you might have previously associated with opera. Wide Open Opera have a mission to make the art form accessible to the masses and according to Tara audiences won’t be disappointed by this production.
“It is such fun,” she says when asked what audiences can expect. “It’s such a cool period and the piece has such universal themes that it still really works in the setting. I think if people have never been to an opera before it would be a great introduction because it’s not a very long piece and I think everyone can relate to something in the story.
And anyone who is worried that they won’t understand the Italian score should fear not as Wide Open Opera will have subtitles running during the show. While this is great for the audience you would imagine it would be somewhat distracting for the singers but according to Tara she “doesn’t even notice it anymore.”
“I’m just so used to it,” she explains. “They used to print the translations in the programme and that meant everyone spent the entire show looking in their laps. This way they actually watch the stage and can still follow the story.”
And to further put any opera virgin’s minds to rest apparently they will be more familiar with the show than they realise. “I think what will surprise people most, if they’re not familiar with the show, is how many of the songs they actually already know,” says Tara. “There’s one of them running in an Ariel advert at the moment and another one was in an Aviva ad. They have actually heard most of them before at some point.”
Rossini’s the Barber of Seville runs in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre for three performances only from 20th-23d April inclusive.