Tenor Ben Heppner Announces His Retirement

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Ben Heppner, one of the leading Wagnerian tenors of the modern era, says he is closing the curtain on his 35-year operatic career.

"After much consideration, I've decided the time has come for a new era in my life," he wrote in a statement on his website. "I'm setting aside my career as an opera and concert singer.

The 58-year-old Canadian tenor said he plans to continue to host the CBC Radio shows "Saturday Afternoon at the Opera" and "Backstage with Ben Heppner," and to "look forward to what the future has in store."

Heppner made his opera debut in 1981 as Rodrigo in Otello at the Vancouver Opera. He focused mainly on light roles in his early days including Camille in The Merry Widow and Alfredo in Die Fledermaus. But after going back to school, he reemerged in the late '80s as a dramatic tenor with an emerging specialty in Wagner roles.

Over the course of his career, Heppner starred in Wagner, Verdi and Puccini productions at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala and Lyric Opera of Chicago, among other houses. He had a long-time contract with Deutsche Grammophon, for which he made numerous recordings.

In a 2007 WNYC interview, Heppner talked about the all-consuming nature of singing Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. "It's not about whether I get more applause than the soprano," he said. "It's about the music: did I sing the music in a way that I can be proud of, or did the music get the better of me tonight? No matter how much voice you come into doing Tristan, you leave it all onstage."

"I wish to thank the countless people who inspired me, supported me and encouraged me to embark on a fantastic journey over the past 35 years," Heppner said on Thursday. "A million thanks to those who hired me. Most importantly, I want to thank everyone who ever bought a ticket."