is the MASTER SINGER of his generation, the tenor who sings the
big, coveted dramatic roles. Greatly in demand as a Wagnerian
tenor, he is booked for the next several years at the world's
top opera houses. Yet he gladly came to Denver to celebrate The
courtesy of Opera Colorado]
BEN HEPPNER was literally a last-minute addition to the roster
of star performers at the grand opening concert. His appearance
was packaged as a surprise, revealed to the public only a week
before the event. And was everyone thrilled!
In a phone interview with FanFaire he said: "Somebody
was chastising me saying, 'You didn't tell us you were doing it.'
I said, 'Well I didn't tell because I only decided the week before.'
It was a decision that made the evening all the more special and
Denver a very special place. For Heppner was to have debuted that
same evening at Los Angeles Opera as Canio in Leoncavallo's
Pagliacci. But in July 2005, he regretfully withdrew from
the production, saying he realized that the role no longer suited
his voice and therefore had been dropped from his repertoire.
On learning about this, Opera Colorado's General Director, Peter
Russell, lost no time in signing him up for the inauguration of
his company's new home. And so LA Opera's loss became Opera Colorado's
For the first of his two numbers in the evening program, Ben Heppner
regaled the audience (many of whom had become fans after hearing
him in a recital the previous February at Denver's Newman Center)
with his sweetly lyrical yet powerful voice as he sang the triumphant
and romantic "Prize Song"
from Wagner's Die Meistersinger.
Walther, die Meistersinger, is a role he owns today and loves,
but - and this may come as a surprise to many - one that he's
giving up performing on the operatic stage. When FanFaire asked
him whether this was indeed true, he said:
"Well, interestingly, yes. And it's not for the sake of singing.
The love interest is beginning to be the age of my daughter. And
I'm thinking, you know, it's
one of those roles that's for a young man. I don't move like a
man of 25; I move like a man who's almost 50. So maybe it's time....
In a sense I don't want to, but I think it's time for the role
to be put to bed." Adding,
"There are young singers and this is a very good role for
them. It takes a lot of endurance, but I think also it's a young
man's role - a lot of movement, a lot of action and passion in
it. And I think it's time to move on."
But happily for his fans, he will ABSOLUTELY keep Walther's Prize
Song in his concert repertoire.
His second number was one of
the biggest highlights of the evening: his impassioned Otello
to Renée Fleming's delicate Desdemona in the dreamy love
duet from Act 1 of Verdi's Otello. It is a role Heppner
will continue to grow into as the certain heir to the tenor
(Placido Domingo) who owns it now. But it was such a brilliant
idea to pair two of today's top stars in a duet that they actually
perform together on the opera stage. According to Heppner:
" We decided fairly late, and
I think it was a suggestion from Peter Russell - because Renée
was going to be there and I had just sang that with her in London.
So I said 'Absolutely. And... if she's all for it, then I am
There couldn't have been a more
fitting ending to a magical
evening of song - Otello/Heppner and Desdemona/Fleming: two
stars singing of love, locked arm-in-arm as they gaze upward
into the silent, starlit night.
CONTINUE ON TO:
Photo courtesy of Opera Colorado