Measha Brueggergosman

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Fans of basketball's Ben Wallace aren't the only ones "feeling the 'fro" these days; Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman boasts one of impressive size, and it's just part of an overall charisma and sense of stage command that has live audiences raving. She was born in bilingual New Brunswick (the lengthy name is the result of the fusing of own birth name, Measha Gosman, with her husband's name), and in this, her second album, she takes on an all-French program with confidence. Brueggergosman's voice has two distinct planes: one has a bright, metallic edge, and the other is a very even, consistent vibrato that's compelling enough in itself to stand out from the crowd of younger singers. Brueggergosman combines the two planes at angles that cast quite a variety of colors. Here she adopts slightly different styles that correspond to those of composers from two successive generations of French vocal music: Hector Berlioz and Jules Massenet. Heard here in its entirety is Berlioz's song cycle Les nuits d'été (Summer Nights), in its orchestral version. Brueggergosman focuses her voice in order to communicate the lyrical, intimate qualities of these songs, which started life written for the un-Berlioz-like forces of voice and piano. Here, in a lovely reading of "Le spectre de la rose" (The Ghost of the Rose -- the reflections of a plucked rose worn by a beautiful woman, saying that "this fragrance is my soul, and I come from Paradise"), she is intense without being particularly passionate. After a short aria from Berlioz's opera Benvenuto Cellini, track 7 (sample Brueggergosman's evocation of suppressed attraction on the descending line at "avoir des yeux et ne point voir, comment le pouvoir?" -- to have eyes and not to look -- how is it possible?), she turns to the more expansive lines of Massenet and gives her growing high end free rein. Perhaps the highlight is the finale of the disc, "L'extase de la vierge" (The Ecstasy of the Virgin), from the semi-religious work La Vierge. As "the air sparkles and blazes, catches fire with the clarity of a day that will never end," Brueggergosman's voice catches fire itself in a bravura performance that builds carefully over seven minutes to a peak of power. Brueggergosman's list of thanks in the credits sends some to "mah killah peeps" (the French translation falls short here), and she borrows another device from the pop world -- there is a hidden track at the album's end, a solo performance of the Walter Hawkins gospel classic Goin' Up Yonder. Pop fans who've heard Ruben Studdard sing this piece are invited to sample track 15. It's breathtaking, and it would seem that that word is going to be used more and more in connection with Measha Brueggergosman.

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