René Pape is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, living bass of his generation. He has performed with all the leading opera companies and has sung numerous leading roles.
But there is a composer that he has become associated with, in particular, Wagner. In celebration of Pape’s birthday on Sept. 4, 1964, OperaWire looks at some of Pape’s great Wagner roles.
Of all the Wagner roles Pape has sung, King Marke is the one he has dominated throughout the years making it his signature role. He first debuted it in Berlin under Daniel Barenboim and went on to sing it at the Metropolitan Opera, Berlin, Paris, Bayreuth and the Royal Opera among others. He also recorded the opera with Plácido Domingo and Nina Stemme and is featured on a DVD version from the Metropolitan Opera with Ben Heppner and Jane Eaglen and on another video recording from Glyndebourne with Stemme. He is also showcased in the Met’s latest production with Stemme and Stuart Skelton, which is available on the company’s streaming service.
This is another role that Pape has made his own. The singer first took on the role at the Met and would later record it on the Mariinsky Label in 2010 with Valery Gergiev. He also appears on the Met’s DVD with Jonas Kaufmann for Sony Classical.
The Ring Cycle
Over the years Pape has taken on numerous roles in Wagner’s Tetralogy. He first sang the role of Fasolt, with which he made his Bayreuth debut and later brought it to the Metropolitan Opera where he sang in the final run of Otto Schenk’s esteemed production. He was also an acclaimed Hunding. He would later graduate to Wotan and sing the role in “Das Rheingold” and “Die Walküre.” He interpreted the essential character at the Teatro alla Scala and Berlin among others. His “Das Rheingold” was recorded and released on DVD. He also recorded “Das Rheingold” and “Die Walküre” with the Mariinsky Theater.
Pape made his Royal Opera House debut in 1997 as the King in “Lohengrin.” He would go on to perform the work at the Teatro alla Scala where he opened the season alongside Jonas Kaufmann and later showcased it at the Paris Opera. His interpretation was recorded with Barenboim in 1998 with the Staatskapelle Dresden.
In “Die Meistersinger” Pape first interpreted the Nightwatchman for his Met debut in 1995 and recorded it under Wolfgang Sawallisch. He would graduate to the role of Pogner, which he sang in a recording with Georg Solti that earned him a Grammy. He also took on the role at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1999.
This is one of his lesser known roles, but Pape has made the rounds with it most recently in Berlin, where his interpretation was recorded for DVD release alongside Barenboim. And he also first recorded the “Tannhäuser” in 2002 alongside Eaglen, Thomas Hampson, Peter Seiffert and Waltraud Meier.
Did we miss anything? Don’t miss Pape’s Gurnemanz in New York, Munich and Berlin this season!