After performances in Franz Schmidt's oratorio The Book With Seven Seals under Fabio Luisi in Vienna (May 13-14), René Pape will sing in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony under Daniel Barenboim at Milan's La Scala, in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI (June 1).
The bass will then star as King Philip II in Verdi's Don Carlos, led by Franz Welser-Möst at the Vienna State Opera (June 16-29). The German singer has embodied the role of King Philip to universal critical praise; after his portrayal at the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Times said Pape "so dominated the performance that Verdi's Don Carlos might have been renamed 'The Tragedy of King Philip.'" In July, Pape will take part in another performance of Beethoven's Ninth with Barenboim, this time closing the Summer Olympics in London with a Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall (July 27).
A performance of Beethoven's Ninth with Pape has long been a hot ticket item; the La Scala concert for the Pope and the Olympic finale at the Proms both promise to be stirring events. Of one such Beethoven Ninth, The Times of London exclaimed: "René Pape's resounding bass jolted us with the most thrilling 'O Freunde' I have heard in the concert hall. He seemed to inspire his colleagues." Pape's run of European summer festivals also involves a Wagner concert with Paavo Järvi in Verbier (August 2) and Mahler's Eighth Symphony under Claudio Abbado in Lucerne (August 8-11). Pape returns to La Scala with Barenboim for a performance of Verdi's Requiem (August 27), which they will reprise at the Lucerne Festival (August 29).
Reviewing a performance of Verdi's Requiem at the L.A. Opera under Plácido Domingo, the Los Angeles Times declared: "René Pape is everyone's favorite bass. … The most elegant figure onstage, the German singer was also the most fearless. His greatness in opera is his capacity to make every word he sings speak. 'Mors, mors stupebit,' he sings of how death will be astounded before God, after the stupendous trumpet outbursts of the 'Dies Irae' (Day of Wrath). The notes go low. Pape's calm certainty bespoke a cool but serious game of chess with death, as if straight out of Bergman's Seventh Seal."
The June production of Don Carlos at the Vienna State Opera is sure to be another moving experience, as Pape explores the humanity of King Philip. The New Yorker summed up the emotional impact of his Met portrayal: "Once again, the German bass René Pape is striking awe into Metropolitan Opera audiences with his portrayal of a suffering king. … His voice has become a juggernaut. It has all the required basso weight and baritonal ring, and it is also amazingly rich in feeling: you hear the King's unfulfilled longings, his self-doubt, his cold resolve. Listen for how Pape rips away another layer of illusion each time he repeats the phrase 'She does not love me' in the Study Scene, or for how he adds a tinge of political insanity to the line 'Death, in my hands, becomes fecund'."