WITH BEN HEPPNER, REBECCA CAINE, JEAN STILWELL, GARY RELYEA

By:  Jon Eben Field

Some Enchanted Evening, a performance of songs from musical theatre and operetta, features Ben Heppner, Rebecca Caine, Jean Stilwell, and Gary Relyea under the musical direction of David Warrack.

These highly acclaimed singers have chosen to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada with a collection of some of the best and well-known songs and operettas from the same period. Drawing on repertoire that includes Die Fledermaus, Carmen, Merry Widow, Show Boat, Porgy and Bess, South Pacific, My Fair Lady, and Phantom of the Opera, these refined singers will dazzle you with the sublimity of their voices and interplay in their duets.

As one of the most famous tenors in the opera world, Heppner has performed virtually every major tenor role during his career, all while singing to standing ovations throughout the world at all the most important opera houses. He has become a household name and is a fan favourite at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Heppner’s voice is unique and distinct, possessing both a power and lyricism that offers drama, energy, and gravitas to the roles that he transforms when singing. Heppner’s career has been built around the globe through singing opera repertoire that encompasses “the heroic roles in the operas of Wagner and Strauss, the classical works of Mozart, Beethoven and Weber, the Italian operas of Verdi and Leoncavallo, the French operas of Berlioz and Massenet, and the 20th century works of Britten and Bolcom.” (TheCanadianEncyclopedia.ca)

And if the opportunity to hear Heppner sing in St. Catharines wasn’t enough, two things in particular make Some Enchanted Evening special. First, it was presumed by many that he would never sing again.

In 2014, “the gentle giant of Canadian opera” (Globe and Mail) announced his retirement after twenty-five years at the most vaulted ranks of opera stardom. Citing his health, the need to spend time with his family, and a voice exhausted and strained from the demands of constantly being on the road, Heppner was prepared to quietly exit the stage.

Doing so brought a domestic happiness and new possibilities to his life. Heppner is the host for two CBC radio programs that have achieved a wide audience, has recently performed in his first musical (Mirvish’s Titanic), and now is privileged to collaborate with some of his favourite vocalists (the second reason Some Enchanted Evening is a performance not to be missed). Heppner commented, “It’s wonderful to work with artists of this level.”

He went to describe the tremendous careers of the artists who will share the stage with him: Jean Stilwell, “Canada’s definitive Carmen”; Gary Relyea, “what a voice in so many roles, but especially Elijah”; Rebecca Caine, “the original Cosette in Les Miserables.

Heppner’s excitement and respect for the other singers was palpable as he said, “It’s just an amazing thing. It’s a thrill.”

That sense of respect for his fellow artists emerges out of what each of them brings to the stage when they perform. Heppner says, “Everyone brings a sense of integrity to their performances.” This integrity is coupled with the knowledge that “We bring a sense of sincerity to the music.” These two factors allow the singers to connect with the audience as they are performing emotionally complex and demanding roles. Finally, though, Heppner acknowledged that there is “the quality of vocal sound that a singer tries to bring to every performance” that takes these performances to another level for the audience.

Music is a complex and mysterious art form that connects audience and performer in a synergistic manner. For Heppner, “Singing expresses emotions. It’s not always your emotion… But you get to express it as a singer, anyway. And it takes your emotions places that you don’t even go. It’s fun exploring that.”

This license to explore emotional vistas outside of the purview of everyday life is an attractive and cathartic vehicle. As Heppner says, “You get to go beyond your normal everyday life and work at a different kind of level. And that’s what’s going to happen when we are in St. Catharines. We are going to bring the characters that we’re singing about to life.”

–          Jon Eben Field, JonEbenField.com

A HOT TICKET presentation

SOME ENCHANTED EVENING

January 31 at 7:30pm

PARTRIDGE HALL, FIRSTONTARIO PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE

250 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines, ON

FirstOntarioPAC.ca