Artist Profile: René Pape, One of the Finest Basses Of All Time

By David Salazar

René Pape is one of the supreme basses in all of opera history.

Born on Sept. 4, 1964 in Dresden, Pape’s had interest in music from a young age, studying with the Dresdener Kreuzchor. In 1988, he made his debut with the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden, where he would go on to have tremendous success thereafter.

In the early 1990s, Sir Georg Solti took the singer under his wing and it was under his guidance that he started to appear all around the world, including Milan, Paris, Chicago, and Vienna, among others. He made his Bayreuth debut in 1994 under James Levine, who took him to the Met the following year. He would appear in smaller roles throughout the late 90s at the Met Opera, before establishing himself as a leading man and even being honored as part of the Met Mastersingers series by the Met Opera Guild in 2010.

His career has taken him to all the major opera houses around the globe and he has even received two Grammy Awards in 2002. He was named “Artist of the Year” by German opera critics in 2006 and in 2009, he won an ECHO award for his solo album “Gods, Kings, and Demons.”

A collector of rubber ducks, Pape had a rubber duck made in his image. It is widely known as the “Papeduck.”

Signature Roles

Wagner has been a prominent composer in Pape’s career, with that of Gurnemanz in “Parsifal” and King Marke in “Tristan und Isolde” his most important of all. He has become the go-to Gurnemanz of his day, performing the role at the Met Opera, Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Festtage, and the Münchner Opernfestspiele, among many others. Likewise, the role of Marke served him well at the Met Opera, Bayreuth Festpiele, Bayerische Staatsoper, Teatro Colón, and Staatsoper Unter den Linden, among others.

Another major role for the bass has been that of Sarastro in “Die Zauberflöte.” Not only was he Kenneth Branagh’s choice for the role for his film adaptation of the opera, but the Met Opera brought Pape in for just one performance during the 2017-18 season so he could appear in the Live in HD broadcast of the work. The role has served him well throughout his career, including in 1991 when he achieved international fame for his interpretation under Sir Georg Solti.

Read More on Pape

A look at His Wagner Roles

An Exclusive Interview On His Career & Future

Watch and Listen

Here he is in the final scene of “Die Walküre.”

And here is a recital that showcases a wider range of his musical genius.


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