A Rich and Exemplary Selection of Beloved German Songs
René Pape, a Metropolitan Opera regular for 14 seasons, has yet to indulge New York audiences with a solo recital, but the wait is nearly over: on Saturday, April 25, he gives his Carnegie Hall recital debut, partnered by pianist Brian Zeger, with a classic program of Romantic songs by Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf.
For his long-anticipated Carnegie Hall recital debut, René Pape has chosen a classic program of great German Lieder, including many of the most popular of Franz Schubert’s enormous catalogue; Hugo Wolf’s rarer trio of Michelangelo Lieder; and Robert Schumann’s complete Dichterliebe – and, if the audience is lucky, a few surprise encores. Each of the programmed songs is a major work in itself: as many recitalists confirm, a single song often presents a challenge as great as any full-length operatic role.
René Pape will try out selections from his Carnegie Hall program in a more private setting a few evenings earlier, at a fundraiser for Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS in its stylish Michael Palm Series. On both occasions Brian Zeger is Mr. Pape’s superb piano partner. Information is available at www.classicalaction.org or by phone at 212-997-7717.
Pape has been very busy in Europe this season. Among his engagements was the first new production staged especially for him in his hometown of Dresden: his Boris Godunov at the Semperoper earned outstanding reviews all over Europe . He also performed his first Méphistophélès in Germany in a new production of Gounod’s Faust at the Berlin State Opera. In this role, which he had previously played only at the Met, Pape gave a performance described by one critic as “phenomenal … at the top of his form” (Frankfurter Rundschau), and according to Neues Deutschland, Pape’s “powerful, grainy, and rounded voice was delicious. He made an almost charming Méphistophélès, revealing his fundamental evil only in occasional blinding flashes.”
While the opera world waits intently for him to take on the role of Wotan, Wagner’s top god, Pape is wisely biding his time: not yet 45, the “black-diamond bass” (Opera News) still has his best years ahead, despite having performed at least 20 roles in the first 15 years of his phenomenal international career. Meanwhile he remains true to his roots at the Met, alternating between two other “Ring” characters – Fasolt and Hunding – in late April and early May during the company’s farewell to the historic Otto Schenk production, which was introduced with an opening night Walküre back in 1986. Another individual fells each of Pape’s two characters: the giant Fasolt is murdered by Fafner, his own brother, in a squabble near the end of Das Rheingold (and Fafner himself is done in by Siegfried two operas later). And the thoroughly unpleasant and homicidal Hunding is brought down by mighty Wotan’s spear – or perhaps by a bolt of lightening Wotan hurls in contravention of the agreement he’s made with his wife, Fricka, NOT to interfere in the affairs of mere mortals.