|Did somebody say...SATAN? René Pape looking devilish.|
First the demonic. The disc opens with Mr. Pape essaying the role of Mephistopheles in three different operas. Two excerpts from Gounod's Faust, one from Boito's Mefistofele and an aria from Berlioz' Le Damnation de Faust. Mr. Pape uses his warm bass-baritone instrument to convey the power of evil and the devil's ability to repeatedly seduce Faust and win his immortal soul in each of these operas.
The set includes two excerpts from The Demon, a rarely heard Russian opera from the pen of Anton Rubinstein. These performances make a case to return Rubinstein's neglected work to the repertory. Based on a poem by Lermontov, this Russian work allows Mr. Pape the chance to display another side of his versatile instrument and skill in the Russian repertoire.
Another highlight is Mr. Pape's first recording as Wotan. The Rheingold Wotan is the highest-written of the character's three appearances in the Ring. Although it is a short excerpt from the final scene the opera, Mr. Pape projects noble tone and sounds comfortable in the role's higher register. His voice has grown in power and flexibiltiy ever since that debut, although it would be lovely to have his interpretation of Fasolt's Scene II arietta included as it is one of Wagner's loveliest vocal melodies.
The kingly roles in question are Philip in Don Carlo, the Russian tsar Boris Godunov, and King Marke in Tristan. This is a powerful "Ella giamma m'amo" although one wishes that Mr. Pape would elect to record the aria in its original French. The Boris excerpt is a taster for his forthcoming appearance in the title role at the Metropolitan Opera. Finally, King Marke is one of Mr. Pape's trademark parts, and his expertise in portraying opera's most famous cuckold is evident in this sensitive reading of Marke's Act II monologue.