Measha Brueggergosman & Richard Margison in Concert

Measha Brueggergosman, soprano | Richard Margison, tenor |
Vancouver Opera Orchestra | Leslie Dala, conductor

Date 7 August 2007 @ 20.00 Venue Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

Reviewer J. H. Stape

Festival Vancouver’s all-Canadian Opera Gala with Measha Brueggergosman and Richard Margison and the Vancouver Opera Orchestra under Leslie Dala was an evening of sheer musical magic, an occasion for pulling out all the stops when rising star and established supernova collided. The orchestra’s high-adrenalin playing of Sibelius’s “Finlandia” set an emotional mood that never relaxed and a rapid pace for an evening that sped by too quickly.

Ms Brueggergosman’s spine-tingling rendition of “Dich, teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser was no less than a revelation. Highly respected for her mastery of the French repertoire, she launched into Wagner as if to the manner born, diction and dynamics perfect and every note impeccably placed. No less thrilling was Richard Margison’s drama charged rendition of “Ô Souverain, Ô Juge, Ô Père” from Massenet’s Le Cid, his large voice ringing out, with silvery, trumpet-like tone.

Ms Brueggergosman’s deftly etched “Lia’s Aria” from Debussy’s L’Enfant prodigue, in which the pain of abandonment was conveyed with heartfelt vividness and in superb French. It marked a shift in mood from emotional turmoil to interiority that was continued in the orchestral interlude, Greig’s “The First Meeting” (for strings) from his Two Melodies. The Vancouver Opera Orchestra shone brightly in this, as this fine ensemble – one of the city’s musical gems -- did throughout the evening, a star in its own right.

The first part of the concert closed with a shimmering rendition of the whole of the second scene of Verdi’s Otello, the lush music tugging at the heart strings as the doomed couple recalled their early love. Mr Margison’s veteran Otello presented the fierce warrior softened by love, while Ms Brueggergosman was all sureness and fire.

After the Intermission, the Orchestra again strutted its stuff in bright, irrepressible playing of Nielsen’s frothy Overture to Maskerade, followed by Margison’s straightforward “Recondita armonia” from Tosca, giving the well-known aria a triumphalist, less lyric approach than do some.

And then came the most thrilling moment in an evening’s chockablock with them: Ms Brueggergosman’s rendering of the death scene from Samuel’s Barber’s Anthony and Cleopatra, a role written for the great Leontyne Price. This aria, torn from one of the greatest turkeys of twentieth-century opera, can never have been more beautifully sung: the dramatic values were overwhelming, the sense of moment conveyed unerringly, and Ms Brueggergosman’s voice, ever beguiling, was at its most beautiful, touching, and finally majestic as she unleashed a torrent of emotions, as the great Queen faces Death, her last lover.

As his final solo, Margison let loose with the much-loved chestnut “Lamento di Frederico” from Cilea’s L’Arlesiana. One would have here for a toning down of decibels to convey the despair of love traduced, but Mr Margison’s approach had noble precedents, and his voice at its most compelling in what has waggishly been called “can belto” mode.

The formal conclusion was the closing duet of the Second Act of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, with Ms Brueggergosman again venturing successfully into territory claimed by Leontyne Price, and with Mr Margison a stalwart, effective Riccardo pouring out his heart.

Shouting for more and unwilling to go home, the capacity audience was favoured with three encores: “Ne andro lontano” from Catalani’s La Wally, “Nessun dorma” from Turandot (bravo Margison), and "People will say we’re in love" from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Oklahoma.

The last mentioned was sung with such charm, playfulness, and sparkle that audience positively beamed as it dispersed into the night, sure that an evening of opera extracts, so lovingly brought to life with such sure artistry and communicative skills, makes the world a better place.

© 2007 J H Stape