Friday, April 25, 2014

Ben Heppner Retires

The Canadian tenor Ben Heppner is retiring from singing, at age 58. He's been singing professionally for about 35 years, and reached the big time after winning the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in 1988.

I heard him live several times: in Lohengrin, in Tristan und Isolde in Seattle and at the Met, in Fidelio at the Met. At his best, he was a terrific singer and a gripping actor. I'm sorry never to have heard him as Peter Grimes or Enee, and like many, I've wondered at his choice of repertory over the years. He sang a lot of Wagner, but it seemed to me that, as he insisted, he wasn't a classic Heldentenor. He sounded well equipped for Britten, for the 19th c. French repertory, with its demanding fioriture and high tessitura, and for a wide range of 20th c. music. He sounded born to sing Gerontius.

I can't find, on line, my all-time favorite Heppner performance, a spectacular live "Fuor del mar" - the long version - at the Met in 1991, sung with enormous energy and with every note securely in place. The audience goes insane at the end, with good reason. You'll have to settle for this original-key "Di quella pira" and weep: why didn't he sing more Verdi?

No comments: