Love lights the way for Measha Brueggergosman-Lee

After nearly two years, Opera Atelier is returning to live performance Feb. 19 with “All Is Love,” a celebration of love in all its forms featuring their artist in residence, Measha Brueggergosman-Lee, so it seemed the perfect time to discuss love in the time of COVID-19.

“I’m thrilled to be in Toronto right now. Opera Atelier is an enterprising and incredibly imaginative company,” said Brueggergosman-Lee, whose Atelier performance will be her first Toronto show for a live audience since 2020.

“I’m convinced that the power of the love between Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg is what fuels the company, and the love of opera and ballet fuels their love — there’s a real alchemy to their work,” said Brueggergosman-Lee, who has been a loyal supporter of Opera Atelier, and vice versa, for nearly two decades.

Zingg and Pynkoski are the founders and co-artistic directors of the company, and also life partners, and have been creating lush, historically informed productions together for over 30 years. They endeavour to shatter preconceptions of what Baroque era music and dance can be by drawing on themes relevant to our present day lives. Love, and its transcendence of time, feels just a little more urgent these days.

“The humility of spirit that is Marshall and Jeanette and their desire to create a beautiful thing brings our focus back to the unshakable love at the core of us all,” Brueggergosman-Lee said.

A knock at the door of the meeting room briefly interrupted our conversation. Her husband, Steve Lee, delivered a fresh mug of coffee. She thanked him and they took a moment to look at each other with unabashed adoration before he returned to their hotel suite.

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The last time Brueggergosman-Lee and I spoke, it was only a few months into the pandemic. She was single, her last scheduled live performance with Opera Atelier had been postponed and she was laying the foundation for her virtual “Measha Series” concerts featuring a diverse lineup of musicians and dancers in Nova Scotia, her full-time place of residence.

In the early days of the pandemic, she struggled with depression as the professional life she had known for decades had all but stopped. Having her two sons, the greatest loves of her life, to care for helped keep her from spiralling into despair and gave her the drive to take stock and keep moving in a positive way.

“I knew that I possess versatility and a desire to work with other people,” Brueggergosman-Lee said. “I love the spirit of collaboration, you know, people coming together. In this climate we need to be making peace with each other, to have greater empathy, and collaboration does that.”

To that end, when she heard jazz guitarist Lee performing nearly a year and a half ago, she had “The Measha Series” and musical collaboration in mind, not finding romance. That was, until she saw how Lee greeted his own children with such love when they came to the stage. She admitted that their relationship was expedited somewhat by the pandemic but, coming up on their first anniversary, they are going strong.

“My husband is an incredible musician, but he does not do what I do. And it excites me to think that I have a life ahead of me learning more about not only what makes him tick, but the music that has filled his life,” Brueggergosman-Lee said.

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Having someone in her life who meets her level of passion for music but in a completely different genre expands her world and brings her joy, she said. “I didn’t know God was gonna send me that kind of specificity of compatibility.”

So much talk of love and marriage might seem frivolous with the news full of anti-COVID mandate protests and other strife. But two years into a pandemic in which so many people seem to be hitting their breaking points, Brueggergosman-Lee feels that love in all its forms is much more than a diversion; it’s the antidote.

“Let me be very clear,” said, pausing for dramatic effect. “I want to make sure that I say this correctly: let it never be said that love is not a superpower. Let it never be relegated to some kind of platitude, when it literally has the power to change people’s lives. It transcends darkness. There cannot be darkness where love is. So when people start strategizing a way forward in all of this, the best place to start is with love. There is no greater power to transform.”

Opera Atelier’s “All Is Love” runs Feb. 19 and 20 at Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W. See operaatelier.com for tickets and more information.


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