Claude Heater, courtesy of the Claude Heater Foundation
Claude Heater began his career in 1950, singing baritone in Broadway shows. In 1952 he moved to Italy to shift his focus to opera. His career as a baritone lasted between 1953 and 1961 and included three years at the Vienna State Opera. He also made several appearances during the 1961–1962 season of the San Francisco Opera in roles that included Demetrius in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Andrei Shchelkalov in Modest Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, and Ping in Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot. He then retrained as a tenor and developed an international repertoire in the repertoire of the operas of Richard Wagner. Outside the opera world, he was cast in the role of Jesus Christ (seen only from behind) in William Wyler’s 1959 film Ben-Hur. Heater retired from performing in the 1970s, shifting his focus to training dramatic vocalists.
He has now furthered that mission with a generous gift that has launched the Claude Heater Foundation as a means to expand the scope of his training efforts. The Foundation is now involved in vigorous fundraising and the cultivation of sponsors. Funds will be directed towards a variety of objectives:
- producing operas, concerts, and recitals often in conjunction with artist exhibitions
- producing master classes to foster artistic and technical development of singers
- hosting a bi-annual vocal competition that will provide further performance opportunities and support to all types of classical singers
- providing artists with quality video and audio of their performances so that, in this media driven age, they have the professional materials so important to furthering their careers
The Foundation will introduce itself to the general public later this month with an ambitious undertaking, a concert performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Tristan was one of Heater’s signature roles, and he appears in that role in a filmed version of the opera that was produced for Belgian television in 1968. This month’s performance will feature an abundance of debuts, beginning with those of each of the major singers in his/her respective role: tenor Roy Cornelius Smith (Tristan), soprano Juyeon Song (Isolde), mezzo Tamara Gallo (Brangäne), bass-baritone Philip Skinner (King Marke), tenor Alex Boyer (Melot), and baritone Geoffrey Di Giorgio (Kurwenal). This will also be Jonathan Khuner’s debut conducting the opera. The performance will be enhanced by commissioned video art created by Naomie Kremer.
This program will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 26. The entire performance is expected to run for four and one-half hours. The venue will be Herbst Theatre, which is on the ground floor of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Ticket prices are $80 (Premium Orchestra, Dress Circle, and Boxes), $45 (remaining seats in Orchestra and Boxes), $35 (remaining seats in center Dress Circle), and $25 (Balcony and remaining seats in Dress Circle). Tickets may be purchased online through a City Box Office event page, which includes a floor plan that shows the number of seats available in the different sections. Discounts will be available for seniors and students.
There will also be a screening of the 1968 film; but it will be divided across two events, only one (the first) of which will be in San Francisco. That event will present the first act of the opera with an introduction presented by Khuner. The screening will be followed by a recital that will include Di Giorgio and Thomas Truhitte.
This program will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 18. It will take place in the Gunn Theater of the Legion of Honor, located at 100 34th Avenue in Lincoln Park. It is approached by following 34th Street north of Clement Street (which is the southern boundary of the park). General admission will be $20 with a $15 rate for students and seniors. Tickets may be purchased online through an Eventbrite event page.
The remaining two acts will be screened at the Berkeley City Club at 2315 Durant Avenue in Berkeley. This screening will also begin at 1 p.m., this time on Friday, August 24. All tickets will be $10, and they may also be purchased online through an Eventbrite event page.