Canadian tenor Ben Heppner has been performing some of opera's toughest roles for the past 30 years in opera houses around the world. Among them are characters involved in opera's greatest love stories and heartbreaks, which climax with dynamic duets.
Heppner spoke to Tempo host Julie Nesrallah backstage at Dominion-Chalmers United Church in Ottawa and shared his top 3 opera duets in the video below.
Here are Heppner's top three opera duet picks:
1. Già nella notte densa
Verdi: Otello, Act 1; Desdemona and Otello
Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna with the Staatskapelle Dresden, conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli. (YouTube)
Heppner’s first duet choice is the place to start if you’re looking for the best and most beautiful instance of two lovers rising up in song. You’ll hear the cellos set the scene in the short introduction, and then the love duet begins with the tenor singing the words, “now in the dark night all noise is stilled.”
2. O sink hernieder
Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, Act 2; Tristan and Isolde
Ben Heppner and Jane Eaglen at the Metropolitan Opera. (YouTube)
It’s another love duet. Tristan and Isolde have escaped the guard of King Mark to declare their love for each other. This duet follows the strict rule of Wagnerian opera, which states that one must never express anything quickly. It lasts nearly 30 minutes.
3. O namenlose Freude!
Beethoven: Fidelio, Act 2; Florestan and Leonore
Richard Cassilly and Anja Silja in Joachim Hess’s Fidelio. (YouTube)
Ladies, imagine your husband was wrongfully convicted as a political prisoner. You’d probably be pretty thrilled when he’s declared a free man, right? This duet takes place at the moment when these separated lovers first embrace. The title, “O namenlose Freude!” translates to “unutterable joy!”
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Saturday Afternoon at the Opera
on Jul 31, 2012