To Play the King
09 Jun 2008
In a recent Carnegie Hall concert, the awesomely gifted German bass René Pape teased the audience with seven minutes of Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov”—an opera in which he sang last year in Berlin but has yet to tackle on this side of the Atlantic. With the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, he delivered Boris’s Act II monologue, wherein the tsar declares that he has achieved supreme power, but remains tormented by his murderous past. Pape’s voice remains one of the most remarkable in opera: it is anchored on low notes of rocklike solidity and blazes brilliantly as it goes above middle C. These are qualities that make for a great Boris, and also for a great Wotan—a role that Pape plans to undertake in a couple years’ time. (He’ll sing the Wagnerian roles of Fasolt, Hunding, and King Marke at the Met next season.) Yet the singer didn’t quite convey the tsar’s vulnerability, his inner terror. The next test for Pape is to use the power of his voice to convey the loss of power, the helplessness of being human.
Pape’s voice remains one of the most remarkable in opera: it is anchored on low notes of rocklike solidity and blazes brilliantly as it goes above middle C."
– Alex Ross, The New Yorker