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With his 1999 Met triumph as Tristan--the most taxing of all Wagner's tenor roles--Canadian singer Ben Heppner has fully earned his heralded position as the great new Heldentenor
of our time. His Lohengrin is a signature role, while his album German Romantic Opera
has been nominated for a Grammy. Yet Heppner also commands tremendous versatility--and of a much more engaging character than that of the typical crossover effort--using his powerful, bronze-tinged tenor to tender and charming effect in My Secret Heart
. This is a collection of songs roughly from the period between the two world wars, when music began to reach mass audiences via radio and screen. Many of these are almost forgotten gems--emblems of a vanished era--but once had wide cultural currency: the World War II hit "We'll Gather Lilacs," the radio show Family Hour
's theme tune "Let My Song Fill Your Heart," and the oft-recorded 1919 ballad "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise." Heppner, with his sturdy beauty of tone and sweet, natural-sounding vibrato, breathes new life into this genre. He handles the idiom's unabashed schmaltz with charm and brings a lilting urbanity to two Noël Coward tunes, with especially bittersweet refinement in "I'll Follow My Secret Heart." --Thomas May