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René Pape rides wave of praise for Méphistophélès at Met

Once again, René Pape is earning universal acclaim for his Méphistophélès in Faust, this time in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Gounod’s opera that runs to January 19. Dubbing Pape “the phenomenal bass” after the November 29 opening, Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times described the singer’s Méphistophélès as “vocally stentorian,” his devilish portrayal “all suavity and calculation.” Eager to meet his fans when not playing the sulfurous one on stage, Pape will appear at the Met Opera Shop at 3pm on Friday, December 9 to sign CDs – including his most recent internationally lauded Deutsche Grammophon release, Wagner Arias. Opera lovers worldwide can revel in Pape’s command as Méphistophélès when Faust is beamed to cinemas worldwide on December 10 as part of the ever-popular “Met – Live in HD” series.
Reprising a role that Tommasini said Pape “already owned” in 2005, the bass takes the Met stage for the new Des McAnuff Faust staging alongside stars Jonas Kaufmann in the title role and Marina Poplavskaya as Marguerite, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the podium. Commending the cast, the New York Post’s review singled out Pape’s performance for its vocal power, saying: “Even stronger was René Pape as the satanic Méphistophélès, a slight snarl brightening his rich bass-baritone so it hurtled into the vast Met auditorium like a cannonball.”
It was the subtle magnetism of Pape’s portrayal that impressed Mike Silverman in his Associated Press review:
Pape was simply tremendous… . His Méphistophélès is at first a jovial and only slightly menacing trickster who dresses Faust in suits to match his own and even performs a soft-shoe routine during his drinking song. This initial charm makes all the more horrifying his sudden change to a figure of implacable evil when he curses Marguerite in church.”
And the Operavore review chimed in: “René Pape led the pack with a Méphistophélès that was at turns suavely debonair and terrifyingly violent, accentuating the ironies in Gounod’s score and…serving as a maniacal master of ceremonies for the piece.”
At the Met CD signing on December 9, Pape will be autographing copies not only of his new Wagner Arias set but of his 2008 DG disc, Gods, Kings & Demons – which features his rendition of two of Méphistophélès’s arias from Faust. Of the latter album, International Record Review wrote:
“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… . I’d urge those interested in this kind of repertoire and voice to buy it, so that they can listen to this wonderful instrument.”
Critics have praised Pape’s Wagner Arias to the skies. His most recent DG album, it presents the great Wagnerian in such signature roles as Gurnemanz in Parsifal and Wotan in Die Walküre, with the support of Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin. Released earlier this year in Europe, the recording won Pape his second ECHO Klassik award, the German equivalent of a Grammy, for Opera Recording of the Year. WQXR, New York’s classical station, declared Pape’s album to be “a must for any Wagnerite.” Wagner Arias includes a teaser for a role Pape has yet to unveil on stage – his eagerly anticipated Hans Sachs, from Die Meistersinger. There are also scenes from Lohengrin and Tannhäuser, as well as one from Parsifal that has Pape singing alongside Plácido Domingo. The disc was featured as an Editor’s Choice in the July issue of Gramophone magazine, where Arnold Whittall’s review summed up its 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.”
René Pape in Faust at the Metropolitan Opera
December 10, 13, 17, 20, 23, & 28
New York, NY: Metropolitan Opera
Gounod: Faust (Méphistophélès)
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