Measha Brueggergosman at Indian River Festival
Review by Ivy Wigmore
On the third of July, The Indian River Festival celebrated its tenth season opening with a concert/lovefest featuring the renowned soprano Measha Brueggergosman. When I spoke to Vivian Beer, the Festival’s executive director a few days before the concert, she said it would be “a full-body experience,” and she wasn’'t kidding.
There could have been no more suitable performer for the occasion. The New Brunswick native, who won the Grand Prize at the 2002 Jeunesses Musicales Montreal International Competition, burst onto the world stage a few years ago like a supernova—albeit one with unusual staying power. She obviously feels a deep affinity for St. Mary’s Church, the festival venue; one might be inclined to think that the feeling is reciprocated. Brueggergosman has said that she feels sometimes, when singing at St. Mary’s, that the church itself is singing along with her.
In a sense, that must actually be true. The building, designed by William Critchlow Harris, is known around the world for its acoustics. I found myself thinking of the stereotypical wine glass shattered by the pitch of a sung note, vibrations within its matter so strong the structure can no longer maintain integrity. Although the church managed to hold it together, I can’t help but think it was affected similarly to some extent. I seemed to feel changes in the air, felt molecules dancing within the church—whether in air, wood or human.
Another noteworthy component of the evening was a general atmosphere of love and appreciation. Not only the audience, but also the choir members apparently adore Brueggergosman: one by one, faces began to beam as the diva appeared.
Brueggergosman is like a force of nature—like lightning or a mighty river or some similarly powerful phenomenon. She seems to exude the music, as if every fiber of her being was involved in the production of the glorious voice that pours out of her. The diva’s performance was simply extraordinary, her physical and emotional engagement with the music so total and her delivery so pure that she could move you to tears with one song (notably, Ave Maria) and make the hair stand up on the back of your neck with another (notably, Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana—from “La Wally”). The evening’s programme was varied, from Ravel to Schubert to Schoenberg, and beyond to American spirituals. Brueggergosman concluded the evening with three of the latter that had the audience eating out of her hand. And after the vibrations in the church at last resumed their customary frequency, after the music, the cheers and applause, I think it quite likely that the vibrations of molecules within audience members wending their way home were still a little altered. A full-body experience indeed.