When a sound system boom jolted the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater midway through Brenda Rae’s Washington debut Sunday afternoon, the soprano and pianist Jonathan Ware kept going. But a few notes later, Rae calmly stopped and told her still-startled audience, “Let’s start this again.”

The speaker mishap was an unfortunate malfunction, but the elegant opera singer laughed it off, continuing a captivating program that spanned three centuries.

Known for long phrases with boundless colors, emotions and dynamics, Rae’s coloratura soared effortlessly with a glittery vibrato, especially in the Richard Strauss and Fanny Mendelssohn pieces. But it was Rae’s subdued moments, where her voice shimmered so softly that one could hear the auditorium’s faintest rustle, that commanded attention throughout the concert.

Presented by Vocal Arts DC, Rae and accompanist Ware excelled in five Franz Liszt songs full of drama. Their “Bist du” unfolded like an aria between lovers, with Rae exchanging melodies with the piano in moody conversation. In “Six Elizabethan Songs,” by the late American composer Dominick Argento, Rae made the Shakespearean language sound fresh and relevant, from the bereft, foreboding quality of “Sleep” and the reflective specter of “Dirge” to the staccato joy of a lad in love in “Diaphenia.”

Rae and Ware brought their talents to bear in the world premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s “Five Songs on Poems of Jean Starr Untermeyer,” Op. 135. The 20-minute work fit the duo like a glove. Together, they rendered the meandering lines and triplets of the opening “Lake Song” as a diaphanous mist over water. In “New Tributes,” both jived in the syncopated rhythms. Finally, Ware rippled his way across the keyboard in the Ravelean “Forget-Me-Nots,” as Rae’s voice ascended above the watery landscape.