Ben Heppner was one of the most beloved dramatic tenors of his time and one that was admired for his technique. While he retired from the opera world and dedicated himself to radio, the tenor left so many memorable moments on stage. This season he celebrated his 25th anniversary at the Metropolitan Opera with a special gala alongside Deborah Voigt and Susan Graham. For the occasion of his 61st birthday (the tenor was born on Jan. 13, 1956), OperaWire takes a look at some of the most memorable moments at the Met.
Ben Heppner was a known Wagnerian but he also had some success in the repertoire of Mozart. He made his debut in 1991 in the title role of “Idomeneo.” The young tenor received rave reviews for his portrayal. The New York Times said, ” Mr. Heppner’s blunt honesty deserved a certain admiration.” The tenor would not be finished with the role because in 2006 he returned to his admired portrayal and was once again commended for his passage work particularly after having dominated the Wagner repertoire for so many years.
Tristan Und Isolde
Heppner did the premiere of Dieter Dorn’s “Tristan Und Isolde” with Jane Eaglen back in 1999 and then repeated it in 2003 with Eaglen. The performances were incredibly memorable and were recorded for DVD. But the most memorable moment in Heppner’s adventures at the Met with this work was in 2007. Scheduled to perform seven performances in 2008 alongside his longtime colleague and friend Deborah Voigt, the tenor cancelled five of the originally scheduled performances. The performances for many were disappointments but those who were present for the final performance of the run got to see the only performance of the two superstars. As they say in fairy tales, “It was Happily Ever” despite a number of failed attempts to get them together. Luckily the Met recorded the performance on a Live Broadcast.
Heppner is credited as the last Lohengrin, alongside Klaus Florian Vogt, at the Met. In 2006 the Met Opera got to see his acclaimed “Lohengrin” with Karita Mattila. The production by Robert Wilson was controversial but the singing was exquisite. His performance was recorded on radio broadcast. Heppner also sang the role with Deborah Voigt in 2006 and thanks to the Met’s archives, the performance is on CD for audiences and opera fans can relish in the chemistry the two offered throughout their careers.
The Met 125th Anniversary
The Met never got to see Heppner in the Ring Cycle because he retried the role of Siegfried way before Robert Lepage’s production came around. However, when the Met performed its 125th gala, Heppner gave his final Met performance in the Love duet from “Siegfried” alongside Voigt. It was supposed to be a preview of the new production the Met would reveal a few years later. At that point Heppner was no longer in his best voice but the performance showed Heppner’s commitment to the repertoire and also his chemistry with Voigt.
If there was ever a role that showed off Heppner’s lyrical side, it was as the Prince in Rusalka. Met audiences got to see him in 1993 alongside Gabriela Benacková. The role was one that he dominated and one that thankfully was recorded for Decca alongside Renee Fleming.