Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ben Heppner cancels rehearsal of PARSIFAL

A good friend of mine who attended the Tuesday rehearsal of Parsifal reported that Ben Heppner did not show up and that his understudy for this production, Mark Baker, performed in his place. I wonder if Mr. Heppner is resting his voice for Friday, or if he has decided (given the vocal problems he experienced on the broadcast of Lohengrin two weekends ago) to postpone his MET Parsifal debut until further notice.

The most distressing aspect of all of this is that my friend reported that Mr. Baker was very uneven. On the other hand, she went on to assure me that René Pape was wonderful; although at one point he took the liberty of stopping the rehearsal, breaking character and, stepping to the edge of the stage, he told conductor Peter Schneider that he was conducting the music too fast.

We shall see. They are falling like flies! First James Levine goes down (literally) and now, possibly Heppner. On paper, this once looked like a Parsifal cast for the ages, now, it's all beginning to sound like a bad retelling of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

No performance of Parsifal is ever business as usual, although I must admit that the MET has an excellent track record with this opera when it comes to superior casts and world-class conductors. I just hope that injury and ill-health have not dealt a debilitating blow to this year's production, and that Ben Heppner gets to sing on Friday.

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