WAGNER Selections from the Ring/Heppner


Arien aus / Arias from

Die Walküre
Ben Heppner
Burkhard Ulrich
Staatskapelle Dresden
Peter Schneider
Int. Release 03 Apr. 2006
0289 477 6003 0
CD DDD 0289 477 6003 0 GH
Supreme heldentenor and Wagner specialist Ben Heppner presents the most compelling music from the Ring

Track List

Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883)
Die Walküre, WWV 86B

Erster Akt

Siegfried, WWV 86C

Erster Aufzug

Ben Heppner, Staatskapelle Dresden, Peter Schneider

Ben Heppner, Burkhard Ulrich, Staatskapelle Dresden, Peter Schneider

Zweiter Aufzug

Dritter Aufzug

Ben Heppner, Staatskapelle Dresden, Peter Schneider

Götterdämmerung, WWV 86D


Staatskapelle Dresden, Peter Schneider

Act 3

Ben Heppner, Staatskapelle Dresden, Peter Schneider

Staatskapelle Dresden, Peter Schneider

Total Playing Time 1:10:50

He seems to have everything ¿ power, stamina, a bright, truly tenorial timbre . . . and he has grown up vocally, through Walther and Lohengrin into Tristan, at an intelligent pace, while mixing in some Italian roles to keep the voice supple. Now, on this recital, he tackles Siegfried and Siegmund, from what we hear, he's more than ready for them and Wagnerians should be waiting in line . . . His combination of lyricism and sheer power are unique today: his cries of 'Wälse!' are as brilliant as his 'Winterstürme' is caressing and tender. He also never resorts to crooning soft moments; what we hear is a true range of dynamics, in real voice. Here and throughout his diction is impeccable and the forward placement of his voice brings real urgency to his exclamation. On to "Siegfried". Not enough praise can be lavished on his Forging Song. I, certainly, have never heard it sung as effortlessly, energetically, expressively, fearlessly, and with such true boyish joy before. He attacks the music and text heroically ¿ this Siegfried seems indomitable ¿ and his tone never falters: it's always big and bright . . . The 'Forest Murmurs' shows us an entirely different side of Siegfried, tender and pensive, and Heppner delivers the solo to us with beautiful tone, enraptured . . . Heppner's amazement is palpable, and he phrases each mood-change and new sensation with great freshness of tone . . . Overall, the Staatskapelle Dresden plays with lustre and rhythmic thrust. This is a stunning CD, sure to delight and tease Wagnerians. It gets the highest recommendation.

Ben Heppner is not scheduled to make his debut as Wagner's dwarf-beating, anvil-busting hero until 2008 (Aix, under Sir Simon Rattle) so the present disc will have to suffice as a rain check. It does so because the Canadian tenor (whom we never seem to see in the UK) is in prime vocal form and . . . is in constant search of original, unhackneyed line readings.

This is work of a resourceful, imaginative artist . . .

. . . over the last 15 years, certain Wagner roles have been the "property" of Ben Heppner ¿ of all things, a Wagner tenor who, in addition to the requisite power, has what might be called a "conventionally beautiful" voice which he actually uses with some discretion and imagination . . . It's a wonderful piece of singing . . .

Wagner-Wohlklang! . . . Nun hat er eine neue CD mit Ausschnitten aus dem "Ring des Nibelungen" vorgelegt, und da heißt es aufhorchen: Der kanadische Tenor präsentiert sich in hervorragender Verfassung . . . Begleitet wird der Sänger von der Staatskapelle Dresden unter Peter Schneider. Der weiche, runde Klang der "Wunderharfe", wie man dieses Orchester gern genannt hat, und das eher auf Mischklang denn scharfe Kontraste abzielende Dirigat harmonieren ideal mit den vokalen Eindrücken.

Glücklich schätzen kann sich dann das Opernhaus respektive das Label, das einen Heldentenor vom Format eines Ben Heppner an der Hand hat . . . Nicht umsonst zählt Heppner zu den ganz großen Wagnertenören der Gegenwart . . . Mit beeindruckendem Ausdrucksspektrum bewältigt er jugendliches Ungestüm ebenso wie lyrische Momente . . . Einen kongenialen Begleiter findet Heppner in Peter Schneider, der die Staatskapelle Dresden mit ihrem unverwechselbaren Mischklang durch die farbenreiche Partitur führt. Beinahe betörend . . . der warme Streicherklang, die sicher geführten Holzbläser und das glänzende Blech ¿ ein hervorragend eingefangener Wagnerklang der Extraklasse!

Es ist eine helle, klare, schlank-konzentrierte Stimme mit einem reizvollen Timbre. In der hohen Lage ist sie der Energiekonzentration fähig, die für die von der Tessitura höher liegenden Partien des französischen Fachs ¿ etwa Jean de Leyden, Cellini und Aeneas ¿ unabdingbar ist . . . Die "tour de force", die mit Siegmunds "Ein Schwert verhieß mir der Vater" und "Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond" beginnt und über Siegfrieds Schmelz- und Schmiede-Lieder und die Waldszene zur Todesszene des "hehrsten Helden" führt, bewältigt Heppner in mehrfacher Hinsicht auf imponierende Weise: zum einen mit idiomatisch korrekter Artikulation selbst der Umlaute, zweitens mit eloquenter Aussprache und drittens mit unforcierter Brillanz. Bemerkenswert ist die Nutzung der konsonantischen Klinger ¿ der Liquide und der Nasale ¿ für eine flüssige, schwingende Phrasierung.

Ben Heppner est absolument sans rival parmi les ténors de la scène wagnérienne actuelle. On sait quelles en sont ¿ en plus des qualités naturellement exigées d'un heldentenor: puissance, endurance, large tessiture ¿ les principales raisons: l'approche lente et raisonnée des rôles wagnériens les plus lourds, un chant avisé et nuancé, l'interprétation parallèle d'un répertoire plus léger et belcantiste pour maintenir souplesse et ductilité, et une préparation extrêmement approfondie, tant d'un point de vue musical que dramatique, des différents caractères a interpréter. Le résultat est là: cette émission haute et claire, ce beau timbre intègre, soyeux et brillant à la fois, ce large spectre dynamique impeccablement contrôlée, et cette articulation parfaite sur toute la ligne de chant . . . Peter Schneider et la Staatskapelle de Dresde délivrent un accompagnement magnifique, extrêmement léché, avec un beau jeu de couleurs et de fondus . . .

Il n'est guère de "Tristan" possible, de nos jours, sans Ben Heppner. "Tristan" mais aussi "Maîtres chanteurs", "Lohengrin", "Tannhäuser" ou "Parsifal . . . Devant ces phrasés caressants, ces qualités quasi belcantistes, ce chant jamais asservi à la déclamation . . . Son meilleur, c'est dans la forêt que Heppner le donne, infusant à son dialogue avec l'oiseau des grâces de "Liedersänger", une liberté de ton, une poésie rarement atteintes . . . Alors, rendez-vous plutôt en 2008, à Aix-en-Provence. Ben Heppner y chantera son premier Siegfried, sous la direction de Simon Rattle. Si tout va bien, les promesses d'aujourd'hui, qui sont déjà des bonheurs, devraient se transformer en miracle.

el tenor Ben Heppner se perfila como el heredero áctual de tenores tan míticos como Windgassen o el propio Laurenz Melchior ... Los números más impresionantes de "Sigfrido" y "El crepúsculo" ... adquieren en su voz de amplio centro proporciones cósmicas, de leyenda crepitante con un poso sobrio de humanidad. ... La pena es que escuchar estos fragmentos deja con las ganas de tener la tetralogía completa por Heppner.

    Tackling Wagner's Ring

Ben Heppner sings Siegmund and Siegfried

Ben Heppner is regularly hailed as today's finest Wagnerian tenor. Audiences all over the world have been moved by his performances in Die Meistersinger, Lohengrin,Der fliegende Holländer and, more recently, by his passionate Tristan. But until now, he has not confronted the ultimate challenge that awaits all Wagner singers, Der Ring des Nibelungen. So it's particularly exciting for music-lovers, and for Heppner himself, that he has just recorded some of the Ring's plum tenor scenes, singing the roles of Siegmund and Siegfried with a view to the future - in 2008 at Aix-en-Provence, he will undertake the young Siegfried on stage for the first time.

Heppner says the timing is perfect. "If I'd tried to record it earlier, when I wasn't yet intending to sing the Ring, it wouldn't have been right. Although I have a distance to go yet, it's good that I've been able to crack the book open and get some of these pieces prepared."

His career and the development of his voice have been leading him towards the Ring for many years. "There was a time about 17 years ago, as we were moving from lyric tenor to 'spinto', that my teacher began to hear that the Germanic repertoire would be right for me. We started to make a transition into the Wagner Fach - jugendliche Helden (lyric-heroic roles) - and indeed that's still where I am, though I make a living in the Heldentenor roles as well. Starting to work on Siegfried was an important transition, because I'd always avoided the Ring up to this point."

There were several reasons for his caution, as Heppner explains, not least that anyone who succeeds as Siegfried will find himself constantly being offered Ring cycles, sometimes to the exclusion of other roles. "But the most important reason is that it takes time, and vocal maturity, to master Siegfried. When James Levine and I talked about this in the past, he said to me: 'You could certainly do Siegfried in Götterdämmerung right now, and it would be a good choice. But I'm not sure about the young Siegfried.' He was referring to the sheer physical stamina that's needed to sing that role."

As we can hear on this disc, Ben Heppner has no problem with vocal stamina - it's a fantastic achievement for him and a delight for us to have Siegfried's best-known scenes recorded by this clear, powerful, still youthful tenor. It may seem paradoxical but Heppner, who has already made over 16 complete opera sets, says recording an opera can be as taxing as performing it live. "If you make a mistake on stage, you don't have another chance to do it that night. Once a problem goes by, it's over. But the audience is more aware of the drama going on than listening for musical perfection. On a record, of course, you have to go over it again."

Deciding on the material he would record cannot have been easy. "There are not that many excerptable arias from the four operas, but our concept was to track Siegfried's life, beginning with his father, Siegmund, through his own youth, maturity and death." Two contrasting pieces stand out in the selection, showing Wagner's complete mastery of mood and character. Siegmund's "Winterstürme" (Winter storms) aria in Die Walküre brings out the poet and visionary in this hero. Ben Heppner is full of admiration for the writing. "In 'Winterstürme', Siegmund expresses his love with such beautiful and refined turns of phrase, in such wonderful lines. It feels more like chamber music than like big, full-blown Wagner."

Siegfried's Schmelzlied (Forging Song), on the other hand, captures the swagger and fearlessness of the energetic teenager of the next work in the tetralogy. "At this stage, I feel that Siegfried is still a two-dimensional hero, like an action figure. His journey leads him to find that other dimension and to flesh out the character. He begins to forge the sword, full of excitement, without imagining he could possibly fail. But even during this scene he's starting to grow, and to realize that Mime is not exactly on his side. It's a wonderful show of bravura and youth and vigour."

Heppner is delighted to be working with conductor Peter Schneider, a Bayreuth Festival veteran of many years standing, and with the venerable Staatskapelle of Dresden, in the city which nurtured the young Wagner but then rejected him for his revolutionary views. "Peter Schneider is a wonderful Wagner expert, and I am very grateful that he's been guiding me through this project."

How does Heppner feel about recording the disc before having performed these works in the opera house? "Ideally I would like to have sung them on stage ten or fifteen times before the recording. But I've worked hard at learning these sections and hope this disc will whet everybody's appetite for the live Ring starting in 2008."

There can be no doubt that it will, but a recording like this, which captures Ben Heppner at the height of his powers, is of course a treasure in its own right.

Amanda Holloway