When CBC personality Gian Ghomeshi asked Measha Brueggergosman “How are you feeling?” during an onstage interview at the soprano’s October 17 recital at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, he wasn't just making small talk.
”I’m good,” replied Brueggergosman solemnly – going on to explain that following her open-heart surgery in June she’s been touched by the “support and prayers” of her friends, family and pubic. (The incident gave Toronto's chattering classes something new to chatter about, besides her dramatic weight-loss a few years ago.)
This was the first time I’ve heard the 32-year-old soprano since her medical emergency: an outdoor concert that I attended in Niagara-on-the-Lake in August was rained out before she could sing a note. And I can only agree with her self-assessment: yes, she is good. In fact, she’s excellent.
It was a short recital: small sets by Purcell, Schubert, Duparc and Britten. (In the time-honoured tradition of recitalists, she deviated from the printed programme and declined to sing the Wolf lieder listed.) But what she sang was lush, well supported and technically spot-on. She made it all sound easy – and did not come across as a singer with something to prove.
What I especially admired was her expressive yet restrained use of dynamics. Brueggergosman has enough voice to do damage to the church's stained-glass windows – and sometimes in big orchestral concerts she is a powerful force. But in this recital with pianist Andreas Kern her fortes were sparing (quite dramatic in Duparc’s “Phidylé”), and her soft passages were sheer magic (especially in Duparc’s “Invitation au Voyage”).
The only selection that didn’t fare well was Britten’s “Johnny,” which suffered from weak projection. The tessitura of the song is so low that it doesn’t really suit her voice.
The recital was a benefit performance for AMREF, the African Medical and Research Foundation, one of several charities dear to Brueggergosman.