René Pape is a singer with immense vitality, revered by critics and audiences worldwide. Opera News has written of him: “René Pape is an artist who thrills his audiences with charisma, intelligence, and a one-in-a-million voice: the luxurious timbre of Pape’s supple, expressive bass is unmistakable, its velvety, dark-brown texture shot with ear-catching flashes of brightness.”
Born in Dresden, Pape has been a member of the Berlin State Opera since 1988, but he considers New York’s Metropolitan Opera his operatic home away from home. Since his house debut in 1995, he has appeared at the Met every season in 18 roles and more than 160 performances, including four major debuts: Méphistophélès in Faust, Gurnemanz in Parsifal, Escamillo in Carmen, and the Old Hebrew in Samson et Dalila. Pape honed most of the great roles of his career at the home of the Berlin State Opera, the famous Unter den Linden, where music director Daniel Barenboim was an early champion of his work. Unter den Linden has played host to Pape’s performances as King Marke in Tristan und Isolde, King Henry in Lohengrin, Sarastro in Mozart’s Zauberflöte, Pogner in Die Meistersinger, Rocco in Beethoven’s Fidelio, Fasolt in Das Rheingold, Hunding in Die Walküre, and the title role in Don Giovanni. The opera house has seen Pape appear as Ramfis in Verdi’s Aida, Figaro in Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro, Leporello in Don Giovanni, and Orest in Strauss’s Elektra. In 2006, he expanded his repertoire to include the title role in Boris Godunov, which won him the title “Artist of the Year” from the German Critics Association. This role kicks off René Pape’s new season in New York.
Pape starts his 2010-11 season in October, starring in the title role of Boris Godunov in a new production at the Metropolitan Opera – a reprise of his Berlin and Dresden triumphs. After performances as the Tsar in Berlin, the Financial Times described Pape as the "consummate Boris, terrifying yet pitiable, a complex and charismatic ruler whose greatest battle is with himself.” While in New York, during his reign as Boris, Pape will be honored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild as part of its “Met Mastersingers” series. The special event at New York’s Town Hall will feature an informal discussion with Pape about his life and career, and videos of some of his most celebrated performances; he will also sing some of his favorite songs.
Pape returns to La Scala in December 2010 to sing Wotan in the second part of the Ring Cycle, Die Walküre. At La Scala last May, Pape made his long-anticipated debut as Wotan in a new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, directed by Guy Cassiers with Daniel Barenboim conducting. It was a resonant debut, lending steam to the popular idea that Pape was born to sing the role. As Die Welt commented: “A wonderful role debut, which will change the perception of this Wagner character for decades to come. One looks forward to its (further) development.” In another season highlight, Pape will travel to Los Angeles in January to give one of his rare Lieder recitals at the Los Angeles Opera.
2009 was an impressive season in Pape’s career. He gave his first solo recital to a sold-out Carnegie Hall, having chosen a program of serious German Lieder for the occasion, and the reviews were ecstatic. He also participated in the Met’s final presentation of the popular Wagner “Ring” production that was first staged more than 20 years ago by Otto Schenk.
In 2008, Pape released his first solo arias recording, Gods, Kings & Demons, on Deutsche Grammophon, with his hometown orchestra, the Staatskapelle Dresden, and Sebastian Weigle. The disc won a coveted “ECHO” award, the German equivalent of a Grammy Award. Pape recorded his first solo CD for DG when a childhood friend, Dresden composer Torsten Rasch, hand-picked him for Mein Herz brennt, a song-cycle based on works by the industrial rock group Rammstein. Pape has recorded numerous complete operas, many available on DVD – including Die Zauberflöte with Claudio Abbado for DG. He sings his signature role – King Mark in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde – on an EMI Classics CD starring Plácido Domingo. Pape stars in a new recording of Verdi’s Requiem, alongside tenor Rolando Villazón, released by EMI Classics in October 2009. In fall 2010, the Marinsky Label will release Wagner’s Parsifal with Pape singing Gurnemanz, a CD that represents Gergiev’s first Wagner recording.
Pape made his debut at Germany’s Bayreuth under James Levine as Fasolt in Das Rheingold in 1994; at London’s Royal Opera Covent Garden as King Henry in Lohengrin in 1997; at the Opéra National de Paris under James Conlon as King Marke in Tristan in 1998; and at the Lyric Opera of Chicago under Christian Thielemann as Die Meistersinger’s Pogner in 1999. He has sung at France’s Orange Festival, Glyndebourne, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and with the touring Metropolitan Opera in Japan. He was one of a quartet of singers chosen by James Levine to participate in a unique “Schubertiade” at Carnegie Hall in 2004.
Pape received his musical education in Dresden as a member of the world-famous Kreuzchor, and completed his studies at the Dresden Conservatory. Sir Georg Solti invited him to sing Sarastro in a new production of The Magic Flute at the 1995 Salzburg Festival, where Pape first won international recognition. Musical America named him its 2001 Singer of the Year, and in 2006 he was one of five leading figures in the world of opera honored by the Opera News Awards.