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René Pape reprises his Méphistophélès in Met “Faust”

Few singers bring Méphistophélès to life like bass René Pape, who reprises his portrayal of the charming devil at the Metropolitan Opera in a November 29-January 19 run of Gounod’s Faust, staged by Des McAnuff. Pape launched his season in the highly esteemed all-star David McVicar production of Faust at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The glowing reviews included this from the UK’s Daily Telegraph: “René Pape was simply magnificent as Méphistophélès, his vocal power, histrionic authority and sly wit putting him in the Chaliapin league.” During the Met run, to celebrate his internationally lauded new Deutsche Grammophon release, Wagner, Pape will meet his New York fans at 3 pm on December 9, when he signs CDs at the Met Opera Shop. The following day, opera lovers worldwide can revel in Pape’s devilish portrayal of Méphistophélès when Faust is beamed to cinemas worldwide as part of the ever-popular Met in HD series.
In the Met’s Faust, under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Pape shares the stage with Marina Poplavskaya (Marguerite), Russell Braun (Valentin) and Jonas Kaufmann (Faust). Pape made his Met role debut as Méphistophélès in 2005, which led Anthony Tommasini to declare in the New York Times that the bass “already owns the role. His singing is robust, incisive and chilling.” In the Wall Street Journal, Heidi Waleson wrote: “René Pape – handsome, suave-toned and full of high spirits and dangerous undercurrents – is a Méphistophélès that anyone would follow right to hell.” Proving that he has only added to his sound and portrayal since his initial Met run, top UK critics singled out Pape at Covent Garden for praise earlier this season, with George Hall highlighting “the magnificence of the voice” (The Stage) and Fiona Maddocks pointing to his “imperious charm” (The Observer). Opera Brittania enthused in detail: “When it comes to ideal casting you probably can’t get much better than René Pape as Méphistophélès … Pape’s Wagnerian instrument has a luscious `black’ timbre and is perfectly smooth and even throughout the range, possessing the heft and authority required to really make an impact in this vital role… His Act III incantation `O nuit, étends sur eux ton ombre!’ was sung with such noble majesty that he could have been Wotan saluting Valhalla.”
Pape is one of today’s most distinguished Wagnerians, and his most recent album, Wagner, presents the bass – teamed with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin – in signature roles such as Gurnemanz in Parsifal and Wotan in Die Walküre. Released earlier this year in Europe, the album won Pape his second ECHO Klassik award for Opera Recording of the Year. WQXR, New York’s classical music station, declared Wagner to be “a must for any Wagnerite.” The album includes a teaser of a role Pape has yet to reveal on stage: his eagerly anticipated Hans Sachs, the noble cobbler of Die Meistersinger. There are also scenes from Lohengrin and Tannhäuser, as well as a special treat in the form of a scene from Parsifal that has Pape singing alongside the great tenor Plácido Domingo. In BBC Music magazine’s review of Wagner, Michael Tanner extolled Pape’s “very beautiful” voice, while extended praise came from the UK’s Guardian, where Tim Ashley wrote: “This is very lyrical Wagner singing – sensual, even sexual in tone, noble in utterance … The ‘Fliedermonolog,’ sounding unusually erotic, is one of the disc’s high points, along with Wotan’s farewell from Die Walküre.” Wagner was featured as an Editor’s Choice in the July issue of Gramophone, where Arnold Whittall’s review summed up the album’s appeal: It’s not often we hear this music so gorgeously intoned… When it comes to sheer vocal refinement and the purest Wagnerian gravitas, René Pape is hard to beat.”
At the Met CD signing on December 9, Pape will also be autographing copies of his 2008 DG album, Gods, Kings & Demons, on which he sings two Méphistophélès arias from Faust. Michael Tanner writes in International Record Review: “René Pape has the most beautiful bass voice to have emerged in Germany in the last 40 years… Here he is to be found singing the Devil in various guises… to all of whom he gives a gliding, insinuating tone of sinister near-geniality, with no snarls, manic cackles or other familiar satanic devices. … I’d urge those interested in this kind of repertoire and voice to buy it, so that they can listen to this wonderful instrument.”
René Pape in Faust at the Met
November 29; December 3, 6, 10, 13, 17, 20, 23, & 28; January 5, 9, 13, 16, & 19
New York, NY: Metropolitan Opera
Gounod: Faust (Méphistophélès)
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