Eddie Pensier writes:
Canadian tenor Ben Heppner has announced his retirement from the opera and recital stage, at the age of 58.
Heppner found his calling as a heldentenor, specializing in German repertory, specifically Wagner. He won the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council competition in 1988 singing Walther’s Prize Aria, “Morgenlich Leuchtend”, from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Here he is singing the same aria in 2006, sounding fresh as a daisy.
I never felt Heppner had the temperament (or voice) for the Italian dramatic rep he sometimes dabbled in. However, he showed a great affinity toward both English-language opera and contemporary works–he was well-known for his interpretation of Britten’s Peter Grimes, for instance. Here he appears in a San Diego Opera “video podcast” discussing the origins of Jake Heggie’s opera Moby Dick, in which he created the role of Captain Ahab.
My favorite Heppner role, and one I was privileged to hear him in several times, was Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio. His rendition of Florestan’s suicidally difficult second-act aria comes pretty close to definitive. (Close second was his Tristan, the only performances of that opera I’ve ever seen live, and which knocked my socks off.)
Heppner has decided to concentrate on broadcasting: his show “Backstage with Ben Heppner” can be heard on the CBC.