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Subject: Ben Heppner
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Date:Sun, 23 Nov 2008 12:47:16 -0500
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Ben Heppner is one of my favorite tenors, but there is no doubt that he has been suffering from vocal problems for quite a few years. I first heard a crack on some notes at an otherwise marvelous recital he gave at Avery Fisher Hall about 10 years ago. His Walter in the Met's Meistersinger was quite unnerving as he cracked badly on at least three occasions during the Prize Song, and to be truthful, I have never felt so uncomfortable for an artist during a performance. There was talk at that time that his problems were caused by weight and/or medication he was taking for high blood pressure.

I did hear him again in Les Troyens, Tristan, Lohengrin, Fidelio?and Andrea Chenier, but I did not feel comfortable, although his singing was much improved, especially in the Wagner operas. After the Chenier, I reluctantly decided to stay away from his performances, as I believe that worrying about a singer's every phrase is not the best manner to spend a pleasant evening at the opera. I was particularly concerned about his Otello, but his reviews were good as I recall.

I was so unhappy to hear about the Pique Dame performance. Over 10 years ago, if I'm not mistaken, Heppner sang in the premiere of the then new production, and was amazing! But to say that he was only concerned about his fee when he decided to press on is just plain silly! I am almost certain that singers who cancel due to medical/vocal reasons get paid, especially those who have star contracts with the Met! I don't know why he continued when he most certainly should've quit, but it is very unfair to criticize him so cruelly as some of the listers have done.

Best regards,
Howard

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