I very much wanted to like this recital and found much to enjoy in it, yet, like some other reviewers, I cannot help but feel that Heppner's voice is not always ideal for the music chosen. Heppner is not actually a Heldentenor - the colour of the voice is too bright - his is an unusual dramatic-lyric voice, so he is understandably drawn to the "light-heroic" French repertoire. Thus he is best in lighter Wagner roles such as Lohengrin and also better suited to the grander utterances in French opera such as "Nature immense", the apostrophe to Nature from Berlioz's "La Damnation de Faust". This suits him well, but he has neither the variety of colour nor the glamour of tone to do justice to more intimate or sparkling arias; his palette of tonal colours is limited and too often a certain rasping strain afflicts the top notes passages with a higher-lying tessitura. He can reach the notes, but they do not sound comfortable, nor do they bloom.
If all this sounds negative, I do not want to overdo it. Much of this disc is very fine indeed; the accompaniments by Myung-Whun Chung with the LSO and the London Voices find them all in top form: sensitive, flexible, and gorgeous in tone. I knew I was not listening to French forces; the accents, both musical and verbal, like Heppner's own serviceable French with its enthusiastically rolled "r's", are too generic, but the very Gallic cover design and programme could almost convince the casual listener that this was recorded in a Parisian venue.
It is good to have the full, extended versions of the arias "Rachel, quand du Seigneur" and "Ô paradis" instead of the truncated concert numbers and the programme is very satisfying in the way that it presents a survey of 19C French opera. For some, Heppner's tasteful restraint might border on inexpressiveness and I cannot deny that I am more moved by Tucker's "tearing a passion to tatters" as Eléazar, but as sheer vocalism Heppner's singing is impressive. He has superb breath control and even if his tone is not exactly warm or refulgent, it usually falls gratefully on the ear, because the voice is steady and even. We have no singer other than Jonas Kaufmann able to encompass the vocal demands of such music and taken as whole, this disc is a courageous tour de force by a major and serious artist who is probably now approaching the twilight of his career. This recital was recorded in 2001 and as such will form a lasting testament to his talents in this specific repertoire.