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René Pape triumphs in UK “Faust” and with new Wagner CD

René Pape launched his season to acclaim with his Méphistophélès in the all-star David McVicar production of Gounod’s Faust at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Among the glowing reviews was that in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, which said: “René Pape was simply magnificent as Méphistophélès, his vocal power, histrionic authority and sly wit putting him in the Chaliapin league.” The German bass crosses the Atlantic to play the Devil again in another starry production of Faust, this time at the Metropolitan Opera, in the Des McAnuff staging that runs from November 29 to January 19. Pape also has a new Deutsche Grammophon solo album available now in the U.S. Titled Wagner Arias, the album sees the singer teamed with 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.”
In Faust at the Met, Pape will share the stage with Marina Poplavskaya (Marguerite), Russell Braun (Valentin) and Jonas Kaufmann (Faust), with Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the podium. Meanwhile, more praise from top UK critics rolled in for Pape’s Méphistophélès at Covent Garden, with George Hall singling out “the magnificence of the voice” (The Stage) and Fiona Maddocks pointing to the “imperious charm” of his portrayal (The Observer). Pape sang alongside Angela Gheorghiu as Marguerite, Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Valentin, and Vittorio Grigolo as Faust, with Evelino Pidò conducting. The live cinema broadcast from London on September 28 was shown in hundreds of theaters worldwide. Opera Brittania singled out Pape’s performance for enthusiastic praise:
“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 new DG album presents the bass in such signature roles as Gurnemanz in Parsifal and Wotan in Die Walküre. Also included is 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 Plácido Domingo. In BBC Music’s review of Pape’s Wagner Arias, Michael Tanner extolled the singer’s “very beautiful” voice, while extended praise came from the UK’s Guardian, where Tim Ashley said:
“This is very lyrical Wagner singing – sensual, even sexual in tone, noble in utterance, and shaped as much through the line as off the words, with not so much as a hint of the declamatory choppiness that some interpreters have deployed of late. Pape’s secure upper registers, meanwhile, allow him to move into bass-baritone territory (Wotan, Sachs) or even pure baritone roles (Wolfram) with breathtaking ease … The ‘Fliedermonolog,’ sounding unusually erotic, is one of the disc’s high points, along with Wotan’s farewell from Die Walküre.”
Wagner Arias 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.”
René Pape in Faust at the Met
Nov 29; Dec 3, 6, 10, 13, 17, 20, 23, & 28; Jan 5, 9, 13, 16, & 19
New York, NY: Metropolitan Opera
Gounod: Faust (Méphistophélès)
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