BY WENDY ELLIOTT
Kings County Advertiser/Register
Ben Heppner loves contact with his audiences and will tour of Atlantic Canada in February to do just that.
Heppner was with the LA Opera last fall performing Lohengrin, one of his signature roles he will also sing soon in Munich. Home in Toronto over the holidays, though, he hosted a low-key reading of A Christmas Carol at his church in Markham.
The man who is a heroic tenor, triumphing in the world’s leading opera houses, is no prima donna. Conscious of his rural Canadian roots, Heppner will visit seven Atlantic Canada communities in February that rarely - if ever - see someone of his stature. His three-week tour includes Wolfville Feb.25.
“I grew up in a small town (Dawson Creek, B.C.) and I know what it is like being far away from the big centers,” Heppner says. “These are people who don’t get to concerts very often, and a certain level of performers hardly ever comes to them.”
Heppner says he thrives on the personal contact provided by these recitals, where only Toronto pianist John Hess will accompany him.
“There’s a direct connection that’s not possible on the operatic stage. I enjoy talking to the audience and explaining what I’m singing.”
The program will consist of some opera and lighter songs.
“They’re in English, and most people will know the tunes,” says Heppner.
Asked about the wisdom of an Eastern Canadian tour in the dead of winter, Heppner says, “I grew up in Northern B.C.: 10 months of winter and two months of bad sledding.”
Soon after his small-town visits, Heppner heads to the other extreme, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, to prepare for one of the biggest challenges of his career. For only the second time, he will sing Siegfried, part of Canadian director Robert Lepage’s $16 million staging of Wagner’s Ring. The “heldentenor role” is so demanding Heppner won’t be singing anything else before or during the run.