Press Room

René Pape: autumn 2010

René Pape will be the toast of the opera world again this season when he assumes two of his signature roles on two of the world’s greatest stages: the title role of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov in a new production at New York’s Metropolitan Opera (Oct 11-30) and Wotan in Wagner’s Die Walküre as part of the ongoing Ring cycle at Milan’s La Scala (Dec 7 – Jan 2). The Dresden native, dubbed “today’s reigning bass” by the Chicago Sun-Times, also features in another of his great roles – Gurnemanz in Wagner’s Parsifal – on a recording of the opera led by Valery Gergiev, due out on September 14 on the Mariinsky label.

On the occasion of his first Boris at the Met, Pape is featured on the cover of the September issue of Opera News. In the story, the 45-year-old singer offers insight into the vocal and dramatic demands of playing the larger-than-life Russian ruler. Amanda Holloway writes:

Pape is still young to be singing Boris. And while as an actor he is easily the equal of his older colleagues, his virile, flexible voice – with its effortless upper register and smooth, resonant bass notes – lifts the performance to another level. Pape can convey extreme emotions without sacrificing notes or the legato line. He revels in the chance to experiment, to take it to the limit. He says, “You can do everything with your voice if you have the technical skills. You can build it up slowly as the mood changes. It’s not all loud, loud, loud. You show your anger, you are starting to get mad, you get madder. And for the last phrase before you die, you sing pp, very soft.” Boris’s tender farewell to his beloved son and his agonizing death are achingly moving. Pape admits that he finds this final section of the role very affecting to sing: “I try to make it touching. After a moment like that, you go back to your dressing room and you are moved, not by yourself, but by what you just did. You need a couple of minutes to come down.”

Pape’s singing of Boris in a production at Dresden’s Semper Oper in 2008 was acclaimed for its theatrical power and technical sophistication. The critic for the Frankfurter Rundschau wrote that Pape’s Boris “is not just a glorious and powerful voice planted on the stage, but also succeeds as a figure driven to madness by stress, tension and despair. . . Pape sings Boris with a voice beautifully modulated in every register and at every volume – tender, nuanced in the expression of his self-doubt, his urge for power, being an attentive father and the awareness of own guilt. There is no better performer of this role in the world today.” The Met’s production of Boris Godunov will be conducted by Valery Gergiev, and is directed by Stephen Wadsworth. After the October run, Pape will return to sing Boris at the Met in March 2011.


Pape in Wagner

Pape hinted at his way with another troubled leader – Wagner’s Wotan, king of the gods – with an aria from Das Rheingold on his prize-winning Deutsche Grammophon solo debut, the 2008 album Gods, Kings & Demons. He gave his role debut on stage last season in Das Rheingold under Daniel Barenboim at Milan’s La Scala, as part of the house’s new co-production of the Ring cycle with the Berlin State Opera. Pape returns with his Wotan in Die Walküre at La Scala, from December 7 to January 2, with Barenboim conducting. 

Of the compelling, very human qualities of Wotan, Pape has said: “There is something about Wotan’s plight, wanting control and love, that I think most of us recognize; we see how hard it is, perhaps impossible, to have both.” Welcoming Pape’s combination of sensitivity and authority in the role, Germany’s Die Welt declared his performance one to “change the perception of this Wagner character for decades to come.”

Another Wagner character Pape has brought to life to long acclaim is Gurnemanz, the noble Knight of the Grail in Parsifal. The Mariinsky label releases its recording of Parsifal in the U.S. on September 14; taken from live performances in St. Petersburg conducted by Valery Gergiev in June 2009, the four-disc Super Audio set is the first recording of a Wagner opera released under Gergiev. Pape’s fellow cast members include Violeta Urmana as Kundry and Gary Lehman as Parsifal.

A New Yorker review of Pape’s performance in a 2003 Met Opera production of Parsifal was a fount of praise: “The evening belonged to the young German bass René Pape, whose performance as Gurnemanz astounded everyone. Wagner wanted more than anything to hear his words etched in the air, and he would have leaped to his feet for Pape; every syllable shot out to every seat in the house. The magnitude of the voice was almost frightening – I’m not really sure how in the Good Friday Spell he managed to sing an extended high D at the end of a long, unbroken phrase, then swell his voice for the note that followed. He sang, as Domingo sings, with the conviction of a born actor. When Parsifal kills an innocent swan in Act I, Pape had us grieving for the dirty white prop onstage.”


“Met Mastersingers”  and an LA recital

While in New York for Boris Godunov, Pape will be featured in a “Met Mastersingers” presentation by the Metropolitan Opera Guild at Town Hall, on October 27. Pape will take the stage for an interview with host Paul Gruber, and a specially created video profile of the singer’s career will be shown. Pape will also sing a few of his favorite songs. The only other singer previously honored with such a Met Guild event was soprano star Renée Fleming.

On January 15, following his run in La Scala’s Die Walküre, Pape will give a solo lied recital at the Los Angeles Opera with pianist Brian Zeger.


René Pape’s fall/winter 2010-11 engagements

October 11, 15, 18, 23, 25, 30
New York, NY
Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (title role)
Metropolitan Opera
Valery Gergiev, conductor; Peter Stein, stage director
October 27
New York, NY
Metropolitan Opera Guild’s “Met Mastersingers”
Town Hall
December 7, 10, 14, 17, 21, 28; January 2
Milan, Italy
Wagner: Die Walküre (Wotan)
Teatro alla Scala
Daniel Barenboim, conductor; Guy Cassiers, stage director
January 15
Los Angeles, CA
Lied recital
Los Angeles Opera
Brian Zeger, piano

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© 21C Media Group, August 2010

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