Whilst the Opera Tattler attended the opening performance of The Makropulos Case at the War Memorial Opera House last Wednesday, the Last Chinese Unicorn was at the nearby Herbst Theatre for a program presented by San Francisco Performances.
* Notes *
As soon as the lovely Measha Brueggergosman stepped on stage she lit up the entire theater. She was dressed in vibrant colors, wearing a luscious, deep red gown with a bright orange wrap draped over her shoulders, but it was her exuberant ear-to-ear smile that was the source of her radiance. She opened her mouth and what poured out was divine. Her voice is the perfect balance of warmth and brilliance. There are some singers who make you nervous and keep you at the edge of your seat because you are never quite certain whether or not they will deliver the next note with precision or enough nuance, or if they might run out of air. Brueggergosman is not one of those. She produces a sound that is deeply anchored in the belly with excellent breath control and effortless delivery. Her voice puts the audience at ease so they can sit back, relax and enjoy the music. She also sings with such expressiveness on her face that there is no need for her to move her arms, which remain firmly planted at her sides.
The program consisted of songs in German (Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, Berg), French (Duparc), and Spanish (Turina) plus two romantic piano pieces played by the accompanist Justus Zeyen, who is also known for his collaborations with renowned German bass-baritone, Thomas Quasthoff. Zeyen's playing was earnest without the theatrical bells and whistles we too often see from some of the younger pianists today (who will remain nameless, as we all know who they are). His Chopin Nocturne in D-flat Major, Opus 27, No. 2 was especially poetic. Zeyen played with the physical stillness and stoicism of Arthur Rubinstein, but the notes had a tender song-like quality to them filled with bitter-sweet melancholy. Measha's German diction was certain better than her French. Her "Nachtstück" D.672 by Schubert, "Wiegenlied," Opus 41, No. 1 and "Ständchen," Opus 17, No. 2 both by Strauss were sublime. The Spanish songs were fiery and feisty, with elements of magical realism. Musically I did not care much for the Berg, but I suppose they were fine.
During intermission Measha did a costume change and came out in the second half rocking a full-length sassy sparkly silver sequin number. It was hot. Whistles and gasps were heard from the audience. She even changed her lip color to something a little more bright and pink to go with the outfit. This is clearly a woman who knows how to put together a look. For her encore, the soprano sang Samuel Barber's "Sure on this Shining Night." The real litmus test was passed with the purchase of her newly released CD titled Night and Dreams. That is how much I enjoyed Measha's singing and her charming on-stage charisma.
* Tattling *
My date complained about some unpleasant body odor emanating from the elderly man sitting next to her. Other than that, the audience was well-behaved and appropriately held their applause for the breaks in between sets.