The CBC announced on Monday that, starting Sept. 7, tenor Ben Heppner is the new host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, the long-running weekly broadcast on Radio 2.
Heppner takes over from Bill Richardson, long a witty and amiable presence on Canadian airwaves.
Richardson is an opera fan. Heppner is a practitioner, and should bring depth of knowledge as well as a raconteur’s flair to the host’s chair.
But we have to remember that Heppner remains a working artist, which not only means he’ll needs some Saturdays off, he will not likely be dishing about colleagues or backstage adventures.
“Since 1979, Ben Heppner has moved CBC Radio 2 listeners with his magnificent singing,” declared CBC director of music programming Mark Steinmetz in a press statement. “I’m thrilled that listeners will now hear Ben share his passion for opera as a host. Ben’s warmth, graciousness and in-depth knowledge make him an ideal host.”
Heppner takes over at a time when there is no more Canadian opera being presented on the CBC, due to budget cuts that have severely reduced the number of live performances the public broadcaster records every season.
Around the same time as the famed B.C. native takes up his radio duties, he’ll be starting rehearsals for the Canadian Opera Company’s October production of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes.