Early life and career
Heppner, of Mennonite descent, was born in Murrayville, British Columbia, and lived in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. He began his musical studies at the University of British Columbia and first attracted national attention when he won the CBC Talent Festival in 1979.
He is associated with the Wagnerian repertoire, but he performed a range of operas from the German, French and Italian canons.
Heppner performed frequently with opera companies in the United States (including the New York Metropolitan Opera) and Europe, and concert appearances with symphony orchestras. He has appeared in the DVD recordings of the Met's productions of Beethoven's Fidelio, Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, three of his signature roles. He first performed Tristan with the Seattle Opera in 1998, and in November 1998 with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Heppner also performed and recorded Wagner's "Gotterdammerung" with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. He specialized in operatic roles including the title part in Lohengrin, the title part in Otello, and Berlioz's Aeneas. He performed Beethoven's "Fidelio" at the Salzburg Festival with Sir Georg Solti in 1996, and recorded the work that same year with Sir Colin Davis conducting. Also with Sir Colin Davis, Heppner recorded the role of Aeneas in Berlioz' "Les Troyens".
Heppner has recorded on multiple labels, participating in complete operas and solo albums of arias and songs. He was signed to an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon (DG). His first solo recording for DG, made in 2001, was Airs Français. It won a Juno Award.
Heppner has received Honorary Doctorates from Queen's University (2006), McMaster Divinity College (2005), York University (2003), Memorial University of Newfoundland (2003), University of Toronto (2002), McGill University (2002), and University of British Columbia (1997).
Heppner was awarded the National Arts Centre Award, a companion award of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards in 1995. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1999, was promoted to Officer in 2002 and Companion in 2008. He performed at closing ceremonies of two Winter Olympic Games. In Turin in 2006, he sang the Canadian national anthem. Four years later, in Vancouver, he sang the Olympic Hymn. Both times, he mixed English and French. In June 2016, Heppner was made a laureate of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards, with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Classical Music.
Heppner announced his retirement from singing in April 2014. Heppner felt unable to be a "part-time singer", feeling that "No matter how often you sing, if you're going to sing at a good level, a quality level, you've got to keep it up all the time. And I was finding that to be a little bit difficult. So that, plus the fact that I've been experiencing a little bit of unreliability in my voice – and that causes some anxieties – I decided it was time".
Post-retirement, Heppner accepted a brief role in a musical production of Titanic at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto in May 2015.
Heppner plans to continue hosting master classes and coaching singers for roles, and appearing on voice competition juries. The Ben Heppner Vocal Music Academy, a public school in Scarborough, named after Heppner, opened in 2012.
- 1992: Weber: Oberon (Hüon von Bordeaux). Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne, James Conlon. EMI.
- 1993: Puccini: Turandot (Calaf). Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Roberto Abbado. RCA.
- 1994: Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Walther von Stolzing). Bavarian State Orchestra, Wolfgang Sawallisch. EMI.
- 1995: Massenet: Hérodiade (Jean). Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, Michel Plasson. EMI.
- 1995: Wagner: Lohengrin (Lohengrin). Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis. RCA.
- 1996: Beethoven: Fidelio (Florestan). Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis. RCA.
- 1997: Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Walther von Stolzing). Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti. Decca.
- 1997: Wagner: The Flying Dutchman (Erik). Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, James Levine. Sony.
- 1997: Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten (the Emperor). Staatskapelle Dresden, Giuseppe Sinopoli. Teldec.
- 1998: Wagner Lohengrin (Lohengrin) Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, James Levine
- 1998: Dvořák: Rusalka (Prince). Czech Philharmonic, Sir Charles Mackerras. Decca.
- 2001: Berlioz: Les Troyens (Énée). London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis. LSO Live.
- 2001: Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos (Tenor/Bacchus). Staatskapelle Dresden, Giuseppe Sinopoli. Deutsche Grammophon.
- 1995: Ben Heppner Sings Richard Strauss. Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Davis (conductor). CBC.
- 1995: Great Tenor Arias. Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Roberto Abbado. RCA.
- 1998: German Romantic Opera. North German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Donald Runnicles. RCA.
- 1998: Dedication. Craig Rutenberg. RCA.
- 1999: My Secret Heart. London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jonathan Tunick. RCA.
- 2001: Airs Français. London Symphony Orchestra, Myung-Whun Chung. Deutsche Grammophon
- 2003: Ideale: Songs of Paolo Tosti. Members of the London Symphony Orchestra. Deutsche Grammophon.
- 2006: Heppner/Wagner: Excerpts from "The Ring of the Nibelung". Staatskapelle Dresden, Peter Schneider. Deutsche Grammophon.
- 1984: Bach: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140. CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Wayne Riddell. CBC.
- 1994: Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde. Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gary Bertini. EMI
- 1995: Various: Along the Road to Bethlehem. Members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Jean Ashworth Bartle.
- 1996: Beethoven: Symphony No. 9. Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado. Sony.
- 1997: Mahler: Symphony No. 8. Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis. RCA.
- 2000: Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde. Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Lorin Maazel. RCA.
- 2001: Mahler: Symphony No. 8. Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly. Decca.
- 2001: Somers: Songs from the Heart of Somers. John Hess. Centrediscs.
- 2004: Arnold Schönberg: Gurre-Lieder. Munich Philharmonic, James Levine. Oehms Classics.
- 2004: Wagner: Siegfried, 3rd act. Munich Philharmonic, James Levine. Oehms Classics.
- Heppner at The Canadian Encyclopedia, accessed September 4, 2019
- "Ben Heppner biography". Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
- Heppner, Ben. "Ben Heppner, 2016 Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award (Classical Music)". ggpaa.ca. Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
- "Ben Heppner, star tenor, announces retirement from singing". CBC News. April 24, 2014. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
- "Ben Heppner to star in Titanic musical in Toronto".
- "CBC Music Welcomes New Opera And Classical Music Hosts Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, Marion Newman and Frédéricka Petit-Homme, As Beloved Host Ben Heppner Announces His Retirement" (Press release). CBC Media Centre. September 7, 2021. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
- Heppner, Ben. "Ben Heppner Music Academy". TDSB.ON.CA. Toronto District School Board. Retrieved November 15, 2016.