The Canadian Opera Company has announced tenor Ben Heppner's withdrawal from Saturday's opening night performance of the dark Benjamin Britten opera Peter Grimes, citing health reasons.

"Mr. Heppner will return to the role for subsequent performances in the COC’s production," the Toronto company said in a statement.

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Ben Heppner withdrew from the COC's opening night performance of Peter Grimes on Saturday, citing health reasons. (CBC)

Four-time Grammy Award-winning American tenor Anthony Dean Griffey will take Heppner's place in the title role on Saturday.

Griffey has sung the part numerous times in the past, including at Houston Grand Opera, Opera Australia Glyndebourne, the Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere. The Houston Chronicle described Griffey as giving “a haunting performance as the outcast hero, singing with aching beauty.”

Peter Grimes tells the story of a rough, outcast fisherman who is met with suspicion after the death of his young apprentice.

The COC’s production of Peter Grimes continues until Oct. 26, with seven performances scheduled at the Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts in Toronto.

Considered among the world's top tenors, B.C.-born Heppner has on occasion suffered vocal troubles that have affected him during performances or forced him to postpone or cancel engagements.