MUSIC
04/24/2014 11:00 EDT | Updated 06/24/2014 05:59 EDT

Ben Heppner, star tenor, announces retirement from singing

Opera singer Ben Heppner is stepping away from the stage, the world-renowned dramatic tenor has announced.

The singer — known for his signature Tristan as well as other roles in Wagner's challenging operas, along with Verdi's Otello and Berlioz's Aeneas — revealed the news this morning.

"After much consideration, I've decided the time has come for a new era in my life. I'm setting aside my career as an opera and concert singer," he said in a statement.

It's a decision he has pondered for some time, in part because his voice has been "unreliable" and he felt he wasn't singing at the same level he was earlier in his career, Heppner told CBC News Thursday morning in Toronto.

Though considered among the world's top tenors, British Columbia-born, Toronto-based singer has on occasion suffered from vocal strain that affected his performances or forced him to cancel engagements.

International artist from B.C.

Heppner, 58, studied music at the University of British Columbia and shot to fame as winner of the CBC Talent Festival in 1979. Nearly a decade later, he gained even greater stature when he won the Metropolitan Opera auditions.

He has also earned both Grammy and Juno Awards and, in 2010, was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada — the honour's highest level.

Over his career, Heppner has performed with the world's top orchestras and at the most acclaimed opera venues — including New York's Metropolitan Opera House, London's Covent Garden and the Vienna State Opera — both in stage productions as well as in concerts or recitals. He has also released a host of recordings.

"I wish to thank the countless people who inspired me, supported me and encouraged me to embark on a fantastic journey over the past 35 years," Heppner said.

"A million thanks to those who hired me. Most importantly, I want to thank everyone who ever bought a ticket."

Last fall, Heppner took on hosting duties for two CBC Radio programs: the iconic Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and Backstage with Ben Heppner.

He said Thursday he has been enjoying his time as a radio broadcaster and that he also looks "forward to what the future has in store."