Given soprano Faith Esham's impressive credentials--1980 winner of the Naumburg Vocal Competition, appearances at the major opera houses in this country and abroad--one expected to be treated to a radiant voice with a flair for the dramatic. Esham's concert at the Library of Congress Saturday evening more than satisfied this assumption, as she proved convincingly to be a first-rate soprano drammatico, capable of enlivening a wide range of texts with equal grace and facility.

In a sense, Esham offered an abbreviated primer of the song as an art form. Traversing works that ranged from Mozart to George Perle, she invested each piece with a keen insight into the underlying emotional implications. Thus the concitato style in Mozart's concert aria "Misera, dove son!," composed for an amateur voice, as well as Schubert's gently rhapsodic "An Mein Herz," struck a fine balance between music and lyric.

Esham and her piano accompanist, Thomas Muraco, were most convincing in Debussy's Ariettes oublie'es, particularly in "L'ombre des arbres" as the soprano's elastic phrasing and clear diction--a problem in some of the Perle and Hugo Wolf selections--underscored by Muraco's delicate chording with overtones intact, shone through the mists of Paul Verlaine's poetry.