Strauss: Opera excerpts

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WORKS: Opera excerpts
PERFORMER: Ben Heppner (tenor); Toronto SO/Andrew Davis
CATALOGUE NO: SMCD 5142 DDD (distr. Kingdom)
The Canadian tenor Ben Heppner is suddenly much in demand in an opera world starved of Heldentenors who do not bark. He has been an acclaimed Peter Grimes and was nominated for a Grammy award for his Walther in Sawallisch’s memorable Meistersinger. Here, he turns to Strauss opera, largely focusing on the lesser- known works, including Guntram. Even in that, Strauss’s first opera, we can hear the composer’s distinctive style and the lush orchestration that can so easily overwhelm the singers. Heppner certainly has a voice big enough to cope, but what is so welcome is that he retains a lyrical composure even at top volume. His account of the affectionate satire of Italian opera from Der Rosenkavalier, ‘Di rigori armato il seno’, also shows that he can hold his own in a part normally given to a lyric tenor. But the disc is more than a showcase for Heppner’s formidable talent. It is also proof that Andrew Davis has become an accomplished Straussian. In the excerpts from Intermezzo, Die schweigsame Frau and Feuersnot, he leads the Toronto SO to ravishing effect, and makes one keen to hear the operas in full. William Humphreys-Jones