Review: Something is Always on Fire
My Life So Far: Measha Brueggergosman
By Evelyn C. White
World renowned opera singer Measha Brueggergosman has lived in the Annapolis Valley for the past several years. In an unvarnished and highly entertaining saga that validates the adage “you are only as sick as your secrets,” she bares all in her new memoir. Infidelity. Insolvency. Sexual improprieties. Gastric bypass. Emergency heart surgery. The in utero deaths of her twins. The births of her beloved sons.
“Some part of your life is always going to be in flames,” she writes. “If it’s not your finances, it’s your relationship, or your work, or your house, or your play, or your kids, or your mind, or your parents, or your car, or your health, or your taxes.”
A child prodigy who aced her first voice lesson at age seven, Brueggergosman, now 40, notes that she wrote the book to assess her extraordinary life (thus far). She urges readers to “decide for yourself what parts…are inspirational and what parts are a cautionary tale.” The famed soprano, former trombone player, and certified Bikram yoga instructor presents plenty of material to ponder.
A descendant of Black Loyalists who settled in the Maritimes in the 1780s, Brueggergosman pays loving tribute to her parents who, she writes, “made it their mandate to discover and cultivate the gifts of their children.” But the affirmation of her family, church, and music teachers didn’t shield the future star from insults about her race and size (“bigger and taller and darker than others”). She fought back.
“When a girl…called me the N-word, I punched her in the face and left her crying with a bloody nose,” the author writes. “…She never bothered me again.”
Along with revelations about the bariatric procedure that helped to slim her once obese figure, the aortic tear that nearly killed her, and her numerous extramarital affairs, Brueggergosman also shares her strategy for achieving “Total World Domination” in opera.
She writes: “Dues must be paid. Research must be done. Technique must be mastered. Languages must be learned.”
And in a poignant bow to working moms, the singer who has prompted standing ovations from Madrid to Moncton, notes that she also penned the courageous work for her children. “I (know) that my sons will inevitably read it and gain a deeper understanding of who their mother is or was. ALL moms have some idea (vague or precise) of how they want their children to perceive or remember them. But I know that I have no control over that. I can only control how much I love them and how hard I fight for them. With my dying breath, I will savour their names in my mouth.”
Halifax writer Evelyn C. White is the author of Alice Walker: A Life, among other works and articles.