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24 April 2014

Canadian Tenor Ben Heppner Announces Retirement From Singing

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Canadian tenor Ben Heppner announced today that he has retired from singing.  

"After much consideration, I've decided the time has come for a new era in my life. I'm setting aside my career as an opera and concert singer," Heppner said in a statement issued today by his manager William Guerri at Columbia Artists Management. "I wish to thank the countless people who inspired me, supported me and encouraged me to embark on a fantastic journey over the past 35 years. A million thanks to those who hired me. Most importantly, I want to thank everyone who ever bought a ticket."  

One of the most distinguished dramatic tenors of his generation, the British Columbia-born Heppner made his first Metropolitan Opera appearance in a 1988 National Council Winners Concert that saw him perform arias alongside Susan Graham and Renée Fleming. In 1991, the tenor made his debut appearance in an opera at the Met, singing the title role in performances of Idomeneo. With his ardent, ductile tenor and a refined musicianship evident in every note he sang, Heppner went on to perform some of the most demanding roles in opera, with a repertoire ranging from Wagner (Tristan, Lohengrin, Walther von Stolzing), to Verdi (Otello), Berlioz (Énée), and Florestan in Fidelio and Gherman in Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades. Along the way, Heppner also cancelled a number of high-profile engagements and publicly struggled with vocal setbacks, most notably in the fall of 2001 in Lyric Opera of Chicago performances of Otello and Met performances of Meistersinger the same season. Performances of Otello in 2004 marked a significant return to form, though in 2011 he withdrew from the title role in the following season's new Metropolitan Opera production of Siegfried, and retired the role from his repertoire. Heppner also made his mark in new works, singing the title role in William Bolcom's McTeague at Lyric Opera of Chicago as well as Ahab in Jake Heggie’s adaptation of Melville's Moby-Dick.

"I thought I would keep singing part time ... but I found that being a part-time singer just doesn't work. It's a full-time job," Heppner told CBC News in an interview on Thursday. "No matter how often you sing, if you're going to sing at a good level, a quality level, you've got to keep it up all the time. And I was finding that to be a little bit difficult. So that, plus the fact that I've been experiencing a little bit of unreliability in my voice — and that causes some anxieties — I decided it was time." 

Heppner plans to continue as host of two CBC Radio programs, Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and Backstage with Ben Heppner, and will also continue to hold masterclasses, coach roles with young singers and serve as a juror in voice competitions. 

"The best thing is to be remembered well ... I always thought it would be a cool way to go out on top," he told the CBC. "I'm not sure if I've done that, but sticking around just for somebody else's satisfaction just doesn't seem like the right thing to do." spacer 

More information can be found at, CBC News, the Globe and Mail and the OPERA NEWS Archives (here, here, here and here). 

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Photo by Kristin Hoebermann/CAMI 

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