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René Pape kicks off 2011-12 with “Faust” (ROH & Met) and Wagner CD

15 September 2011 — René Pape launches his 2011-12 season on September 18, when he stars as Méphistophélès in the all-star David McVicar production of Gounod’s Faust at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The Covent Garden Faust runs until October 10, with the September 28 performance to be beamed live into cinemas around the world. Already lauded in Europe as “unquestionably magnificent” (Guardian, UK), Pape’s latest Deutsche Grammophon solo album, titled Wagner Arias, will be released in the U.S. on October 4. And the German singer crosses the Atlantic to play the Devil again in another starry production of Faust, this time at the Metropolitan Opera, in the Des McAnuff staging that runs from November 29 to January 19.

Hailing Pape’s role debut as Méphistophélès at the Met, Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times said, “He already owns the role. His singing is robust, incisive, and chilling.” Martin Bernheimer went further in the Financial Times:

“The evening was stolen…by René Pape, the powerful, playfully sardonic Méphistophélès. His basso, more cantante than profondo, rolled, roared, and crooned, as needed, with easy insinuation. Strutting through the evil charades with a different costume from a different period in each scene, he underplayed the menace, and doubled its impact. This devil got his due.”

At Covent Garden, Pape stars in Faust alongside Angela Gheorghiu as Marguerite, Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Valentin, and Vittorio Grigolo as Faust, with Evelino Pidò conducting. The live cinema simulcast on September 28 will be shown in more than 100 movie theaters in the U.S. alone. In Faust at the Met, Pape shares the stage with Marina Poplavskaya (Marguerite), Russell Braun (Valentin), and Jonas Kaufmann (Faust), with Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the podium.

 Pape is of course one of today’s most celebrated Wagnerians, and his new DG album, Wagner Arias, sees him accompanied by frequent collaborator Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin, exploring a rich vein of material. The program features arias that present Pape in such signature roles as Gurnemanz in Parsifal and Wotan in Die Walküre. Also included is a terrific teaser of a part Pape has yet to reveal on stage – his eagerly anticipated Hans Sachs, the noble cobbler of Die Meistersinger. There are also scenes from Lohengrin and Tannhäuser, as well as a special treat in the form of a scene from Parsifal that has Pape singing alongside the great tenor Plácido Domingo.

Extended praise for Wagner Arias came from the UK’s Guardian newspaper, where Tim Ashley declared:

“This is very lyrical Wagner singing – sensual, even sexual in tone, noble in utterance, and shaped as much through the line as off the words, with not so much as a hint of the declamatory choppiness that some interpreters have deployed of late. Pape’s secure upper registers, meanwhile, allow him to move into bass-baritone territory (Wotan, Sachs) or even pure baritone roles (Wolfram) with breathtaking ease… . The ‘Fliedermonolog,’ sounding unusually erotic, is one of the disc’s high points, along with Wotan’s farewell from Die Walküre.”

The album was featured as an Editor’s Choice in the July issue of Gramophone magazine, where Arnold Whittall’s review summed up its appeal: “When it comes to sheer vocal refinement and the purest Wagnerian gravitas, René Pape is hard to beat.”