Feet Bare, Voice Adorned
Such were the vocal pleasures at Measha Brueggergosman's recital at the Austrian Embassy on Wednesday that a listener might not have noticed that this stunning Canadian soprano sang barefoot. I was assured by the powers-that-be at the Vocal Arts Society (which hosted the recital) that this is her preferred mode of performing. And indeed, if there was ever a program that cried out "no shoes," this was it.
She sang a mix of sultry, salty, witty -- and, in the case of Schoenberg's "Brettl-Lieder," deliciously filthy -- cabaret songs by composers ranging from Poulenc and Satie to Ned Rorem and William Bolcom. The big revelation was a rarely heard set of breezy, pop-tinged tunes by Benjamin Britten and W.H. Auden (of all people), which sounded as if they'd been lifted from one of Kurt Weill's Broadway musicals.
Brueggergosman's comfort level with this material reached far beyond her unencumbered toes. She found an ideal blend of poise and come-hither engagement with the audience that sold, but never oversold, these songs. And her voice was pretty glorious, with its arrestingly dark, contralto-like lower register, its rich and glowing middle, and high notes that boasted a ravishing luster and just enough tang to project them effortlessly. How rare it is to hear crystal-clear diction allied to a voice of such sumptuous tone.
Pianist Roger Vignoles was a model of stylistic savvy and unflagging support.
-- Joe Banno