Twenty minutes before my 5 pm interview with Measha Brueggergosman at the Elgin Theatre, her publicist phones to tell me she’s very sorry but Measha’s not at the Elgin, which is conveniently located two blocks from the NOW offices, but up in Koreatown. Could I meet her there instead?
Um, okay, I sigh, my diva radar suddenly flashing. How difficult is this singer going to be?
After biking through rush hour traffic, I climb the restaurant stairs to find Brueggergosman gabbing and eating kimchi with her castmates from Opera Atelier’s new production of Idomeneo. Later she’s taking them down the street for ice cream at Greg’s. Okay, not exactly divaesque behaviour. I forgive her.
“Ordinarily I’m here in Toronto maybe one week out of every month,” she says about her busy international schedule. “So six weeks in a row of working and sleeping in my own bed is awesome.”
It’s been almost a decade since Brueggergosman performed the title role in Beatrice Chancey, her last local opera engagement. She chuckles and admits other local opera companies haven’t called.
“I’ve done concerts with the Canadian Opera Company orchestra, but I’ve never worked with the COC, which is a shame, because I think it’s a great organization,” she says.
She herself approached Opera Atelier’s Marshall Pynkoski.
“I was a fan and I wanted to know how I could get plugged into this crazy, wonderful company,” she says. “Their work is so original, fabulous and cohesive. It’d be nice if more companies had this vision.”
She’s especially enjoying the company’s trademark physicality.
“I have a physical gesture that corresponds to whatever I’m singing,” she says. “You’re able to connect more with the text. I’ve talked with the cast members who’ve worked with OA before, and they tell me they’re more courageous, more connected to their bodies. When you’re singing, you’re so concerned with producing good sound that sometimes you forget that people can actually see you.”
These days there’s less of Brueggergosman to see – about 100-plus pounds less. She’s quite candid about her mini gastric-bypass and Bikram yoga regime.
“I think it took a while to lose the weight because I wasn’t motivated by self-loathing,” she says. “I was fabulous then and I’m fabulous now. But I was addicted to food and I was in denial.”
She laughs at the idea that she’s become the poster kid for making classical music accessible.
“People say my album cover is hippish,” she says. “It’s a beautiful photo, but for my next cover I’d love it to be like Jully Black’s, legs for days. And hey. Classical musicians are hot. Shauna Rolston should be topless and do a muscleman pose for her next disc cover.”
Here’s what Measha Brueggergosman listens to in her spare time.
“To put on makeup or gettin’ pumped, I’ll listen to JT (Justin Timberlake), Postal Service, the Quebec band DobaCaracol and Jann Arden.
“I’d love to cover a Jann Arden song. She knows love, even ugly love.
“To chill I’ll listen to the Joel Plaskett Emergency, Loreena, I do love me some Ron Sexsmith, and I’ve got a strong late-70s hair metal fetish. The lead singer from Journey makes me not wanna stop believin’.” GS