AS returns to work go, this one qualifies as rather joyful.
And for Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman, that’s both a relief and a treat.
The New Brunswick-born performer has resumed her concert schedule after the birth last August of her son, Shepherd, including a pair of dates in our city this weekend as part of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks series.
There are challenges involved, but there’s something about returning from a blessed event that’s quite different from a comeback that follows adversity or tragedy.
"Like any life-altering experience, having a child has a way of creating new perspectives on pre-existing outlooks," Brueggergosman, 35, says by cellphone during a recent driving trip around Nova Scotia with husband Markus to introduce young Shepherd to friends and relations. "I think parenthood is perhaps the most common of those point-of-view shifts... you have this knowledge that you exist before and after parenthood as a similar person, but suddenly there’s this add-on and nobody tells you what a huge deal it is.
"I’ve really enjoyed it, and I wouldn’t do anything differently. I’m really happy about it, because I think with something as harrowing and lifealtering as having a child, you should be able to have the experience you want."
The joy of new parenthood is a decided shift from the other earth-shaking events that preceded it in Brueggergosman’s life — she and her husband lost twins during an earlier pregnancy in 2011; two years before that, the singer underwent emergency open-heart surgery after a ruptured aorta almost took her life.
In relative terms, the arrival of Shepherd, by planned caesarean, was kind of a walk in the park.
"The process of coming back to singing, as well as other things I did before, was not a huge change," she says. "It’s not an illness; you’re not really ‘coming back’ from anything. You had a baby — it’s an incredible, life-changing thing, one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever experienced, but I’m still an opera singer with a penchant for trying anything and everything, and the barometer for me feeling like I’m in the centre of myself is my singing.
"My relationship with singing is the longest one I’ve had, other than my relationship with God and my parents. I feel very comfortable articulating the health of that relationship."
Brueggergosman’s healthy relationship with music will be fully on display this weekend when she takes part in a diverse WSO program that includes Bernstein: Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, Kernis: Musica celestis, Ravel: Shéhérazade, Hovhaness: Symphony No. 2 (Mysterious Mountain), Bolcom: Cabaret Songs and Gershwin: An American in Paris.
"The interesting thing about the program is that it’s 20th-century works," she says. "In classical music, we have repertoire that spans half a dozen centuries, but the program that we’re presenting represents repertoire that exists within a 60-year span. You have Ravel, who is an early 20th-century composer, and you have William Bolcom, who’s still alive. Within the span that is classical music, they would be considered contemporaries with only a tiny bit of space between them, but this program does have a very diverse palate to it.
"This is the reason I’ll always be a classical musician — there’s such a broad brush we get to paint our careers with… It kind of satisfies my love and indulgence in terms of the diversity of repertoire that I can choose."
And speaking of musical diversity, Brueggergosman says she has fond memories of her recent stint as a judge on TV’s Canada’s Got Talent, and of the unexpected first-prize win by local act Sagkeeng’s Finest.
"It was a very interesting result," she says. "In a way, it was right down the middle — a group from the middle of the country, performing a traditional form of dance, who had a tremendous story and so much heart behind them. We knew, after the fact, how hard they’d worked — how they’d thrown themselves into every single second of rehearsal time, and how they were so committed. Those boys were so nice; Sagkeeng’s Finest really were some of the loveliest young men I’ve ever met.
"I really felt that the process, for them, was one of growth; it started out as a pleasant surprise for them when they got to move deeper into the competition, but then as it dawned on them that they had a chance, and their community got behind them, they really dug in, and the opportunity contributed a lot to their becoming men. It was a very touching journey to be witness to."
Full details of the WSO’s 2012-13 season are available at www.wso.ca