With her hair teased into an eight-inch corona, her eyes hooded in gold shadow, cheeks mauved and lips shellacked, the Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman looks as if she were expecting at any moment to be summoned to sing Aïda at the Met. So far, though, the 30-year-old has built a career on intimate recitals that take advantage of her ability to beguile audiences at close quarters. On November 28, she’ll appear with pianist Roger Vignoles at Carnegie Hall’s underground Zankel Hall, lavishing her lush chinchilla tone on music that lies somewhere between soufflé-light art song and highbrow cabaret. You might think that’s her natural niche, until you hear her caressing a slinky French mélodie or a German Lied, sounding equally at home.
She’s ready for more opera now, but she’s also cautious about getting sucked into an unmusical shock production like the whips-and-leather La Traviata that the Canadian Opera Company recently staged. “There’s nothing bigger, better, louder, cooler than the operatic experience,” she says. “But if I commit to an opera because I love the role, then I get there and all of a sudden I’m being dry-humped from behind by a sheep, that’s not fair. I don’t want to be difficult, but it’s important to me as a Christian to be involved in productions that my parents can come see.”
Born Measha Gosman, she married a Swiss man, Markus Brügger, in the process acquiring a full-time personal manager and a couple more syllables in her surname. She’s reinvented herself in other ways: Over the past couple of years, she lost enough weight with the help of Bikram yoga to make her almost unrecognizable. She became a presence on Canadian radio and television—a local version of Project Runway recently featured a competition to design a recital gown for her—and she has plunged happily into a recitalist’s peripatetic career: one town, one night, then back on the road.
Her new CD begins with a burst of brass and a nasal mewl: Surprise! That’s the title of a snappy William Bolcom song and also, aptly, of an album full of startling energy and charm. At a recent industry showcase, Brueggergosman wielded a rich and polychrome yet agile voice, and displayed diction that she justifiably describes as “fierce,” each vowel chiseled to a sharp, smooth edge. She didn’t just sing a song—she sold it, sashaying around the minuscule stage like a diva in the rough, alternating between aw-shucks-it’s-just-li’l-old-me giggles and a grand-scale charisma that could someday soon galvanize a very big room. Maybe even the Met.