Compassion at the MET: Lohengrin, April 29 2006
Heppner seemed a bit tight during the first act, but managed to finish it with only minor mishaps, really noticeable only on a secondary hearing. However, during the course of the challenging and long Act II, he cracked in two separate places towards the end of the act. Most noticeably on the A natural on the words "Heil dir, Elsa! Nun lass vor Gott uns geh'n!" I am not sure if I can call it "cracking" on the note, it was more like he was vocally unprepared for delivering the phrase, thus leading to the production of one of the ugliest sounds I have ever heard at the MET. Ironically and sadly for Heppner, that was the last phrase that he had to sing before the end of the Act. On the bright side, he was able to finish the performance, singing a lovely third act, and a very effective "In fernem Land."
I think that Ben Heppner has the goods, and oftentimes, he tends to deliver them. Whether or not his voice is that of a true heldentenor (or whether or not he will be the next Siegfried) belongs in another discussion. However, last time this vocal embarrassment happened to Heppner during a MET broadcast, we started hearing reports that he was suffering all kinds of vocal problems that were leading to the cancellation of recitals up and down the U.S. and Canada. Eventually, he took a break from singing for several months and lost weight, which he has managed to keep off.
I am worried that he is going down the same path again, and I am especially worried that his first Parsifal at the MET might be compromised by whatever vocal problems might be plaguing him at the moment. Let us hope that he gets over this, and that he is able to debut in Parsifal successfully.