René Pape’s 2012-13 Season Offers Recital Debut at La Scala; Wotan in Berlin; Plus Solti Centennial Concerts in New York & Chicago

13 September 2012 — After kicking off his 2012-13 season this month as Phillip II in Verdi’s Don Carlos at the Vienna State Opera, René Pape makes his recital debut at La Scala in Milan Sunday, September 16. The bass will sing Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf lieder, with fellow Dresdener Camillo Radicke at the piano. Pape then travels to Germany to reprise his acclaimed Wotan at the Berlin State Opera, in a production of Wagner’s Die Walküre conducted by Daniel Barenboim (Oct 4-14). For concerts celebrating the centennial of Sir Georg Solti’s birth, the singer joins conductor Valery Gergiev and the World Orchestra for Peace at Carnegie Hall (Oct 19) and in Chicago (Oct 21). Pape returns to La Scala in December to open its opera season, portraying King Heinrich in Wagner’s Lohengrin, together with his friend Jonas Kaufmann and frequent musical partner Daniel Barenboim (Dec 7-17). On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the “black diamond bass” (Opera News) re-joins Barenboim for performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the Staatskapelle Berlin. And in 2013, to help mark the bicentennial of Wagner’s birth, Pape sings his signature Gurnemanz in the new François Girard production of Parsifal at the Metropolitan Opera, conducted by Daniele Gatti (Feb 15-March 8).

Pape’s season also takes in performances at the Berlin State Opera as Sarastro in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. It was that role that put him on the operatic map, thanks to Solti selecting him for the part in a high-profile production at the 1995 Salzburg Festival – a key reason for the singer’s participation in the conductor’s centennial concerts this year at Carnegie Hall and in Chicago.

The Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf lieder of Pape’s La Scala recital debut echoes the program from his Los Angeles recital debut in 2011. In his glowing review of that performance, Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times declared the singer “the finest bass of his generation,” and mused on the qualities Pape shares with voices from the Golden Age, writing that “what he conveys is that same unforced intensity of expression heard on old recordings of the great singers of the past.” Swed added, “Vocally, Pape is a complete singer. His lows vibrate with a satisfying subterranean buzz, his highs have a baritonal smoothness.” But execution matters, too; Swed noted one particularly impressive interpretation: “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.”

For those wanting a preview of the marvels Pape can manage in Die Walküre, Lohengrin, and Parsifal, there is his album Wagner, released by Deutsche Grammophon in 2011. That recording – with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin – presents the bass as Gurnemanz in Parsifal and Wotan in Die Walküre, as well as King Heinrich in Lohengrin. The disc was featured as an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone, where Arnold Whittall’s review summed up this singer’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.” Wagner won Pape his second ECHO Klassik award, the German equivalent of a Grammy, for Opera Recording of the Year. And WQXR, New York's classical station, declared the album to be "a must for any Wagnerite.”