Saturday, 7 February 2009

Bicycling to see Ben Heppner at the Opera de Paris

I've rediscovered the Velib Paris bicycle system and the pleasure is as great as it was first time round. This time I was heading out to see Ben Heppner in recital at the Palais Garnier and realized that by the time I'd got on the metro I would never make it. So I grabbed a bike at one of the three bike stations at Bastille and whizzed off along the Rue de Rivoli - then right onto the Avenue de l'Opera, left the bike at the station just behind the Palais Garnier and ran  into the theatre.

I like Ben Heppner better in concert. He's a great Wagnerian and his voice rides happily over a vast opulent orchestra. But if I have to have  Ben Heppner in recital I'd rather it were  somewhere like Seattle where last year, after some serious songs, he took off his tie and glasses and gave us some standards and talked to his audience and made us laugh and cry. The man has a personality and humour as big as his voice but it wasn't on display in Paris where he seemed more intent on  showing his versatility in an over-stuffed programme. We got Schubert Lieder, Strauss songs, a big chunk of Britten, Duparc, Bellini, Verdi and Puccini. And yes, Ben Heppner can still sing lied, bel canto, Verdi, elegant French songs and Verismo but Ben Heppner can also knock us out of our seats with Tristan's death or Siegmund's Winterstorm. For anyone familiar with either of those, this evening felt subdued and a little flat.

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