Canadian tenor Ben Heppner takes to the stage of the Canadian Opera Company Jan. 29, to perform one of his most famous roles, Tristan in Tristan und Isolde.

One of the opera world’s great romantic lead roles, Tristan calls for a voice of great emotional colour.

Heppner has received acclaim around the world for his interpretation of the doomed lover in Richard Wagner’s opera.

But this time his appearance is remarkable because it’s in Toronto, with the COC.

Heppner has been a no-show in COC productions for the past 17 years, despite making his home in Toronto.

It’s not just that he’s an opera star in demand around the world – when he has been scheduled to perform in Toronto, a virus or other mishap has always stopped him.

It’s been such a long time between appearances in Toronto that critics have begun to call it a "Heppner curse." Heppner himself dismisses the notion.  

"It's interesting because that has been brought up a few times, and I kind of feel like it fits into the way that a lot of the country feels about Toronto which is 'why do they think they are so special?'" he told CBC News.

Heppner shares the stage with Melanie Diener and he has internationally renowned director Peter Sellars at the helm.

Sellars has every faith in his performance.

Sellars says Heppner has "incredible commitment to not just singing in beautiful sound quality but this powerful voice that comes right from his heart, right from his gut!"

Tristan und Isolde is being co-produced with Opéra national de Paris and conducted by Johannes Debus. It runs Jan. 29 to Feb. 23 at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto.