Another take on Heppner
ClassicsToday weighs in on the recent Ben Heppner Wagner recital disc.
They're wrong. I think I covered this disc, saying that Heppner was underpowered and Schneider was reined in. Apparently, everything I didn't like about this disc was enough for my colleagues (I suppose) over at CT.
I know Ben Heppner is the Anointed One of Wagnerian tenors, but Domingo's Parsifal (recorded live, no - as best as I can tell - studio trickery here) tells me that he might have to wait. I broke out my Melchior discs, which - for the most part - cover the same stuff. The difference was night and day. Let me explain, by way of an analogy that is long-winded and overly complicated. Everything great about TPW.
There is a Mexican restaurant that I like here where I go to school. I go, mostly, to load up on tortilla chips and cheese dip, but I get the steak as an entree. It's OK. A bit light and usually a bit over-done for my tastes. Then, on occasion, I'll go to either the Beef House in Covington or St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis. Those steaks are filling, perfect, and weighty. Heppner is the Mexican steak: OK, but I listen to fill up on sweet tone. Melchior is St. Elmo: perfect, filling, and the sort of Heldentenor that makes me profoundly happy. I'd also count James King in the same category (have you heard his "Nur eine Waffe taugt"?)
The dark, baritonal quality of Melchior (and King) makes him a Heldentenor. Anyone else is just a lyric on 'roids. Wagner, likely, and some say he wanted a bel canto tenor, would agree. There is something about his music - i.e., everything - that calls for a real man to sing in a real voice. Otherwise, you might as well have Andreas Scholl sing Siegfried.
That was a joke.