Press Room

René Pape’s West Coast recital success

René Pape made his belated West Coast recital debut last month to resounding huzzahs from critics.  Revealing the most intimate side of his art, the German bass sang some of the greatest, deepest songs by Schubert, Schumann, and Hugo Wolf, accompanied by pianist Brian Zeger at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.  In his glowing review, Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times mused on the qualities Pape shares with voices from the Golden Age, writing that the bass “conveys that same unforced intensity of expression heard on old recordings of the great singers of the past.”  Opera Theater Ink chimed in: “Pape is a consummate artist, and his technique reigns supreme… .  He sang with commitment and soul.”  And Opera West was similarly impressed, pronouncing Pape’s voice “midnight rich…, both gentle and powerful.”
The Los Angeles Times’s insightful enthusiasm for Pape’s triumph of vocal expression is worth quoting more fully:
“Pape is without question the finest German bass of his generation and was making his local recital debut as part of the Los Angeles Opera season.  But this was a hard sell.  The Chandler has poor bass acoustics, and Pape programmed none of the Wagner or Mussorgsky in which he excels.  Instead, an imposing opera star offered intimate songs by Schubert, Hugo Wolf, and Schumann in a room and with a voice seemingly far too large for them.  All bets, it turned out, were off.  Pape began with three late Schubert songs from the collection Schwanengesang (“Swan Song”).  And from his first agitated utterance in ‘Aufenthalt’ (‘Dwelling Place’), it was clear that…no, it wasn’t clear, he was clear.  He was more than clear; he was present.  Schubert describes a surging storm as a metaphor for the swelling of a broken heart.  Pape delivered lyrics with the shocking immediacy of tweets reporting devastation the second it happens.
“Among Pape’s Schubert was ‘An die Musik’ (‘To Music’), its lyricism not tailored for this burly bass, more comfortable as a commanding tyrant or holy man on stage.  But sweetness is also in his bag of bass tricks.  Vocally, Pape is a complete singer.  His lows vibrate with a satisfying subterranean buzz, his highs have a baritonal smoothness.  He doesn’t fuss.  Wolf’s three Michelangelo Songs were the closest he came to soul-searching opera, these examples of raw, inconsolable inner anguish.  Pape ended the first half with Schubert’s ‘Prometheus,’ a Goethe text in which the distressed poet…rails against Zeus.  I would not have liked to have been that god facing Pape.  The second half was devoted to Schumann’s song cycle Dichterliebe (“The Poet’s Love”), its 16 short poems by Heinrich Heine fashioned into a musical wonderland of shifting moods.  The beautiful month of May, the month of love and lilies, is illusion and delusion, the consequences of which fill an unsettled half hour.  In many songs, the singer trails off and the pianist moves into new realms, adding further context into the agony of love’s changeability.”
Pape returns as Boris to the Met and debuts as Wotan in Berlin
Among the highlights of Pape’s spring 2011 is the March 9-17 Metropolitan Opera reprise of his universally-acclaimed interpretation of the title role in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, with Valery Gergiev conducting.  Writing after Pape’s first Met performance as Boris last October, New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini praised the bass’s emotional power in this titanic Russian role: “In every language, Mr. Pape makes words matter… .  During the coronation, there is a soul-searching moment when Boris removes his crown and voices his remorse to himself.  Some great Borises have conveyed the character as beset with internalized torment.  Mr. Pape’s anguish is always raw, fitful, and on the surface.  But the volatility is balanced by the magisterial power he conveys.”
On April 17, Pape makes his role debut as Wotan in Wagner’s Die Walküre at the Berlin State Opera, under Daniel Barenboim.  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 portrayal of Wotan bound to “change the perception of this Wagner character for decades to come.”
René Pape: winter/spring/summer 2011 engagements
February 19: Tokyo, Japan
Toppan Hall
Lied recital; Camillo Radicke, pianist
March 9, 12, & 17: New York, NY
Metropolitan Opera
Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (title role) / Valery Gergiev
April 17, 22, & 25: Berlin, Germany
Berlin State Opera
Wagner: Die Walküre (Wotan) / Daniel Barenboim
May 1, 5, 8, 13, 17, & 20: Berlin, Germany
Berlin State Opera
Verdi: Don Carlo (King Philip) / Massimo Zanetti
June 5, 10, 15, & 18: Tokyo, Japan
Bunka Kaikan Theater
Verdi: Don Carlo (King Philip) / Metropolitan Opera Tour
June 29 & 30: Zurich, Switzerland
Tonhalle; Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 / Kurt Masur

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