Opera Chic is on the record as one of the biggest Duparc fans on the Internet: and it's always a treat when a great singer takes us to explore the breathtaking heights of Duparc's greatness. Earlier tonight, dear Ben Heppner at la Scala included four Duparc songs in a recital where he sang -- beautifully, and with great generosity -- Schubert, Strauss, Britten, Bellini, Donizetti (seriously: Donizetti, as if this were a Florez recital or something), Verdi, Puccini and Giordano.
And for the final encore -- as the opera house's audience cheered wildly in a standing ovation -- Hep even played the piano himself and sang a lively bluesy/jazzy ode to Rock&Roll in his booming voice, Jerry Lee Lewis-like, under the watchful, smiling eyes of pianist Thomas Muraco, a big bad bald linebacker of a maestro who had played with great skill and delicate nuance until then.
But of all this, tomorrow in the full review -- it's late now and Opera Chic is still recovering from the beauty of it all. Especially from the deeply moving moments of the Duparc section of the recital (Extase, Chanson Triste, Rosemonde and, of course, Phidylé). But suffice to say, for now, that Heppner -- forget about his Wagner for a minute, forget about the ravages that kind of repertoire inflicted on his voice, an instrument that does indeed get sweetly threadbare at times, like a much-loved teddy bear -- Heppner is a perfect interpreter for Duparc's rare gems, the few precious artifacts that survived the fire of Duparc's madness and are the lonely remnants of his genius. To those songs, Heppner brought tonight his sense of dignity, and grace, his ability to make dramatic sense of the most subtle phrases. "Before dying, this heart still drinks Fire, and Light" sang Heppner in another moment of the concert (Schubert's "Im Abendrot"); and it sounded like the most appropriate introduction to Duparc's chansons.