Measha Breuggergosman, soprano; Justus Zeyen, piano, Chan Centre, November 14, 2010

Soprano Measha Breuggergosman has fast become Canada’s chosen ‘diva’.  Born in New Brunswick and graduating from the University of Toronto, Measha has a very exciting and distinctive voice, and a wide repertoire ranging both from the classical to the very modern, and from opera to song.  She also has a commanding – and indeed somewhat exotic -- stage presence.  A national symbol since her singing of the Olympic Hymn at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, she has been an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 2007; her international opportunities and her ‘following’ increase on a weekly basis.

Given Deutsche Grammophon’s current program to overproject the ‘image’ of its young artists (this started with Lang Lang), there is of course the danger that Measha will become her image. After all, her very successful first DG recording was marketed as ‘cabaret songs’ (DG 4776589).  Her decision to display two striking concert dresses at this performance, plus her seemingly carefree banter with the audience, certainly gave us the image of the ‘cool’, ultra-public Measha, full of sassy swagger and consumable by all.

Fortunately, stripping this surface gloss away, we do have a very serious and hard-working singer whose musical potential is rich and deep.  She is more than just a lovely voice in exotic garb; she already seems to be a very complete and thoughtful ’artist’, one who is able to add strong interpretative insight to an excellent technical base.   Contrary to her image, her vocal presentation is distinguished more by its elegance, sensitivity and awareness of intimacy.  These characteristics were illustrated time and time again in this varied recital of lieder (art song), one which closely parallels her recent CD, ‘Night and Dreams’ (DG 47781011).

In the uplifting Duparc songs, the singer readily showed her desire to express the exact meaning of each poem, probing their fine detail, yet sustaining a long overall line with intensity.  Both here and later in the concert, one noted her extreme concentration and vocal control in soft passages and her awareness of subtle emotional variations even within a phrase.  But she can really move out to dramatic peaks too!   What is impressive is that she appears to be very aware of how far she should go, and seldom pushes to the extreme. This is intense, expressive singing but always carefully-judged too. 

How well later on Measha both unified and contrasted the wonderful Strauss/ Berg songs coming from the same late Romantic roots.  She gave both great inward feeling but she put just enough raw sinew into the phrases of the heartfelt Berg songs that they contrasted perfectly with the somewhat sweeter and more cultivated Straussian expression.  The additional Turina songs delightfully mixed passion and play, while her Barber encore was a model of distilled tenderness.

Some may have walked away from this concert talking about the second dress Measha wore.  But I think most of us were totally consumed by the obvious ‘artistry’ we had just witnessed.  Exciting as it must be for her, I nonetheless can hardly wait for Measha to graduate from the ‘rising star’ academy.

© Geoffrey Newman 2010