The Kennedy Center’s Ireland 100 festival continued Monday evening with a performance by Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught, who provided the substance of a recital of Irish song and opera in the Terrace Theater, supplemented by tenor Anthony Kearns in some lighter fare.
Erraught may be familiar to D.C. audiences from her charming Washington National Opera debut last year in Rossini’s “Cinderella.” She brought similar vocal fireworks to “Non v’e donna sulla terra,” an aria from “Falstaff,” an Italian opera by Irish composer Michael William Balfe (1808-1870). The musical style is pure Rossini, whom the composer, also an opera singer, was close to in Paris, but it’s filtered through an Irish lens. The audience, which applauded before the cabaletta portion of the Balfe aria, also cut off Erraught’s fine accompanist, Deirdre Brenner, more than once, most egregiously mid-phrase in the postlude of Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of Thomas Moore’s “The Last Rose of Summer.”
The two Britten arrangements, with their dissonant tonal colors, added some needed variety to a program that leaned sentimental and Romantic. Erraught also excelled in a set of folk song arrangements by Herbert Hughes, a contemporary of Britten’s, with a winning stage presence and a velvet pianissimo tone.
Kearns, one of the original “Irish Tenors” on PBS, brought a more homespun touch to the evening. He was at his best in comic songs such as William Percy French’s “The West Clare Railway,” accompanied by Jonathan Laird, who was both more forceful and less precise at the piano. Kearns cast his net wide for music to make Oirish eyes misty, including a song from “Finian’s Rainbow,” the musical by Burton Lane, reportedly a favorite of President John F. Kennedy’s.