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René Pape Begins Recital Career and Retires Roles in NYC

On April 25, when
international opera star René Pape took the stage at Carnegie Hall, most of his
audience had no idea that this was not only his Carnegie Hall recital debut,
but his first solo recital anywhere. 
Listeners certainly couldn’t have guessed it from his delivery or
demeanor, especially not once presented with a golden-age recital of Schubert,
Schumann, and Wolf sung by “the world’s most charismatic bass.”*  Two nights earlier – and two nights
later, too – Pape was on the Metropolitan Opera stage in the role of the giant
Fasolt, in Wagner’s Rheingold.  According to one critic, Pape “made
that character as real as I have ever heard or seen him,” although his
character didn’t survive the show (Fasolt is murdered by his brother, Fafner,
in a fight over the gold stolen from the Rhine at the opera’s outset).  Fortunately, Pape survived both his
opera and Carnegie Hall appearances, and is expected to plan more recitals in

The New York Times review of Pape’s Carnegie Hall triumph was
headlined: “In Brooding Lieder,
Gentleness, and Drama.”  The
detailed review by Allan Kozinn identified many highpoints:

“René Pape has inhabited both the
brighter and gloomier ends of the bass repertory on the opera stage and in
orchestral performances … . 
‘Aufenthalt’, which opened the first Schubert group, offered a quick
reminder of the depth and power of Mr. Pape’s sound, as well as the subtlety of
his interpretive style. … The dynamic fluidity that both Mr. Pape and his
eloquent pianist, Brian Zeger, lavished on ‘Der Atlas’ pointed up the anguish
that drives the song, much as a similar marshalling of resources unleashed the
anger that propels ‘Prometheus’, in Mr. Pape’s second Schubert group. …  For pure, soul-wrenching introspection,
nothing on the program … quite matched Mr. Pape’s rendering of the Wolf Michelangelo
songs … .  Dichterliebe grapples with a more transitory
kind of pain, even if the Heine poetry that Schumann set paints the vicissitudes
of love in the grandest terms. 
Here too it was the fine gradation that Mr. Pape and Mr. Zeger applied
to the music that gave Heine’s (and Schumann’s) passion flesh and blood.  Mr. Pape’s sound was often at its
lightest, but in songs like ‘Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen’ and ‘Ich hab’ im
Traum geweinet’, that gentleness had an irresistible power.” –
culture writer Matthew Gurewitsch’s blog – includes a paean to Pape’s Wagner

“As Fasolt, the German
basso René Pape simply took it away … . 
Across the wide orchestra pit, his eyes cast their spell: piteous with
heartache for the lovely Freia, blazing with righteous indignation at Wotan’s
evasions and deceit.  Like [Graham] Clark, Pape used every inflection to deepen the reading of his character’s
inner life.  The sheer eloquence of
Pape’s sound – smooth, noble, yet nobly austere – is a chapter unto
itself.  Fasolt is small potatoes
for a star of his stature, and sources in the house say that with next week’s
third cycle, he will retire it.  A
pity, though no surprise.  But what
a way to go.”

The web-based ConcertoNet
review of Pape’s Carnegie Hall program also singled out Fasolt, with a
meticulous report about the full experience of the singer’s performance:

“Whether in star-roles or in cameos … , his voice
illuminates the interior life of the characters he portrays.  The results are often surprising (his
depiction of a love-sick, emotionally vulnerable Fasolt, for example) as well
as deeply affecting.  In his move from
the opera stage to the recital stage, Pape made full use of all of these
talents in a very ambitious program. … [Schubert’s] ‘Aufenthalt’ and ‘Der
Atlas’ showed off the unforced power and sonorous depth of Pape’s voice. …
‘Der ‘Einsame’ had a sprightly playfulness but, underneath, there was the
wistful sadness of the hermit sitting by the fire with only a cricket for
company.  ‘Heidenröslein’ was sung
as a mock tragedy, with beautiful vocal colors and dynamic finesse.

“Between the two sets of Schubert songs, were Wolf’s three
songs based on poems by Michelangelo. 
The second of these, “Alles endet, was entsteht”, sung mostly in half
voice, was an emotionally wrenching experience – a memento mori about the transitory nature of life
…  .”

During the Metropolitan
Opera’s recent final showing of its 20-year old “Ring” production, the media
paid close attention.  In the New
York Times
’s ArtsBeatBlog, Anthony Tommasini devoted an entire paragraph to
Pape’s performance as Fasolt, pointing hopefully to the German bass’s possible
future as “King of the Ring,” Wotan:

“The astonishing German
bass René Pape was the giant Fasolt, and having such a formidable singer in the
part put an intriguing new twist on the familiar opera.  Fasolt’s brother, Fafner, sung here by
John Tomlinson, is a coarse brute. 
But Fasolt is the more calculating, strategic, and soulful giant,
especially with Mr. Pape in the role. 
Singing with virile sound and chilling power, Mr. Pape made Fasolt
seem a worthy and dangerous partner in the payment negotiations with Wotan.
  Mr. Pape, who also sings Hunding in Walküre on Tuesday (and repeats
both roles in the cycle next week) is readying himself for Wotan down the road
someday.  I am not the only Wagner
fan who can hardly wait.”

René Pape has scheduled his
first European recital in his home city of Dresden on June 3.  Before then, he gives three
performances as Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Vienna (May 18-25) and a concert with the London
Philharmonic performing the songs of Mein Herz brennt – a work by his friend Torsten Rasch, which Pape
recorded to great acclaim for Deutsche Grammophon in 2003. 

Meanwhile, the bass’s solo
arias disc on DG, “Gods, Kings & Demons”, continues to earn great
reviews.  Fanfare magazine calls it:

“A beautiful, diverse, and
fascinating recital, with Pape deftly switching characters from aria to
aria.  … With Philip’s aria [from
Verdi’s Don Carlo], we can compare Pape to a host of
basses, among them Chaliapin, Kipnis, Pinza, Christoff, London, Raimondi, Ghiaurov,
and Van Dam.  … To my ears, Pape
sings the most introspective, suffering Philip of all … .  His interpretation [of Wagner’s King
Marke in Tristan] has only grown better and subtler over the years.”

René Pape’s early summer
plans include an anniversary performance of Mendelssohn’s seldom-heard oratorio
St. Paul in the Leipzig
Gewandhaus (June 18 and 19) and Verdi’s Requiem in Rome conducted by Daniel Barenboim (June
24).  Further information follows.

*Opera News


René Pape: Selected
spring engagements

May 18, 22,
& 25; Vienna, Austria

Mozart: Don

Vienna State
Opera / Constantinos Carydis

May 31; London,

Rasch: Mein
Herz brennt

Philharmonic Orchestra

Royal Festival
Hall / Vladimir Jurowski

June 3; Dresden,



Camillo Radicke,

June 18 and 19;
Leipzig, Germany

Mendelssohn: St.

Orchestra / Herbert Blomstedt

June 24; Rome,

Verdi: Requiem

Teatro alla
Scala di Milano

Sala Accademia
Nazionale S. Cecilia / Daniel Barenboim 

June 27; Berlin,

Mozart: Die

State Opera,
Unter den Linden / Dan Ettinger

June 30;
Frankfurt am Main, Germany


Opera Frankfurt
am Main

Camillo Radicke,

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