Ben Heppner cancels 'Moby-Dick' performance in San Diego
Ben Heppner has canceled his Tuesday appearance in "Moby-Dick" at the San Diego Opera. The company said in a statement that the tenor was ill and that the role of Captain Ahab would be sung that night by Jay Hunter Morris.
"Moby-Dick," by Jake Heggie, is an operatic adaptation of the Herman Melville classic novel. Heppner originated the role of Ahab at the world premiere in 2010 at the Dallas Opera.
In recent years, Heppner, 56, has been noted as much for his cancellations as his appearances and some vocal travails in performances.
"It happens," he said flatly in an interview with The Times. "There have been some not-great moments in my more recent past. I'm working through it."
Of Saturday night's opening performance of "Moby-Dick," San Diego Union-Tribune critic James Chute wrote that Heppner’s voice "sounded strained and was inconsistent throughout his range (every time he went up into his high register, it sounded like an occasion, and not a good one)."
Heppner's last Los Angeles Opera appearance was in Wagner's "Lohengrin" in 2010. Critic Mark Swed wrote of Heppner, "You could never predict which notes or phrases would be clarion and which not."
Heppner quit the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Wagner's "Ring" cycle, in which he was to have played the role of Siegfried.
Morris ultimately replaced Heppner as Siegfried in the Met's "Gotterdammerung," forcing Morris to drop out of San Diego's "Moby-Dick." Heppner then was named Morris' replacement.
Heppner and Morris are scheduled to share the role of Ahab when "Moby-Dick" premieres in San Francisco in October.
Performances of "Moby-Dick" will continue in San Diego on Feb. 24 and 26, Heppner's availability dependent, of course, on his recovery.
Is there a bug going around San Diego Opera? Earlier this month, the company's resident conductor, Karen Keltner, withdrew from "Moby-Dick" due to illness. She was replaced by Kentucky Opera conductor Joe Mechavich.
-- David Ng
Photo: Ben Heppner as Ahab in "Moby-Dick." Credit: Karen Almond / Dallas Opera