The Barefoot Diva

Classic Arts Features   The Barefoot Diva
Sporting a big blond afro and a nose ring, soprano Measha Brueggergosman, who makes her New York Philharmonic debut in Central Park on July 17, is one-of-a-kind.

"The message of classical music will never change," Measha Brueggergosman declares, "but it's okay to update the packaging!"

Sporting a nose ring and a blond afro, the rising young Canadian soprano lives those words. She has also been known to sing barefoot: "I wear a size 11 wide shoe — not a popular size in concert attire," she explains, "so I took the offending party out of the equation. I got the nose ring to mark my 23rd birthday and it's part of me. And this big hair is mine; I stopped trying to do anything about it years ago!"

Barefoot or shod, when she makes her New York Philharmonic debut in Central Park on July 17 (and appears again on July 20, during the Orchestra's residency in Vail, Colorado), Ms. Brueggergosman will be playing it straight, singing the kind of repertoire — operatic arias by Weber, Massenet, and Catalani, with Sir Andrew Davis conducting — that has made her one of today's most sought-after recital and concert singers.

Although not yet 30, she is no overnight sensation. Born in New Brunswick, she decided on a singing career at age 15. She went on to study at the University of Toronto, did postgraduate work in Germany, and between 2000 and 2004 won a host of prestigious competitions. Since then, her tongue-twister of a surname (a combination of her husband's Bruegger and her own Gosman) has been on everyone's lips. Her star has risen quickly, with international concert and recital engagements, and a debut album — titled Surprise and featuring cabaret music by Schoenberg, Satie, and William Bolcom — set to be released in October under an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon.

Her accomplishments do not stop with her classical singing: she recently lost 155 pounds ("I promised myself I'd do this before I turned 30"), sings gospel and jazz, and has an ancillary career as a personality on Canadian television and radio, where her genuine, quirky persona makes her irresistible. "I don't do these things as some sort of statement," she says of her offbeat approach to the classics and to life, "but because it's so much harder to pretend to be somebody else!"

Robin Tabachnik writes frequently about the arts.

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