Soprano Ailyn Pérez’s career trajectory has taken her from the launchpad of the Wolf Trap opera program to the Met, La Scala and other European opera houses with numerous prestigious awards along the way. Friday, after a homecoming recital at the Barns at Wolf Trap accompanied by her early mentor Kim Pensinger Witman, a car was waiting to whisk her to Manhattan where, Saturday, she hosted the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” production of Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
She must be doing something right. And she is — on a number of fronts. Her recital of turn-of-the-20th-century Spanish and French songs revealed a splendidly supported vocal instrument with just enough edge to give it clean definition, powered by a smart, thoughtful musician and actor.
In the Spanish sets, with music by Fernando Obradors, Joaquín Turina and Manuel de Falla, Pérez emphasized the varied colors the Iberian idiom offered, including the all but inaudible and glowingly sensual ending of Obradors’s “Del Cabello Mas Util,” the introspection of Turina’s “Nunca Olvida” and the joyful exuberance of de Falla’s “Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas.”
In French songs by Fauré and Reynaldo Hahn, she broadened legatos and let the language revel in a more spacious focus. And she managed all this entirely within appropriately chamber-size proportions, never sounding like a scaled-down opera singer. (Although she did admit that her flashingly sequined top was probably not the best choice for such a small space.)
Witman, as usual, was the masterful collaborator. She seemed to have great time dancing through flamboyant Spanish rhythms but was, perhaps, most impressive in the far less active — but far more subtle — passacaglia-like accompaniment to Hahn’s “A Chloris.”
Concerts at the Barns always feature a post-intermission question-and-answer session hosted by WETA’s Rich Kleinfeldt, during which the performers respond to members of the audience. It’s a nice, informal and sometimes informative 10 minutes, and Pérez showed off another of her talents, talking about music. While she spoke movingly of dealing with language and of the next role that she would like to take on, she was most helpful in answering another question — about whether an audience ought to clap between songs of a set (as many did in this concert). She made this distinction: Because the songs in these Spanish sets were not part of a story line, clapping would be fine. But “in a cycle like Schubert’s ‘Winterreise,’ ” she said, “clapping would be a little like jaywalking in Vienna,” a distinction all audiences might take to heart.