René Pape and the NDR Sinfonieorchester conducted by Alan Gilbert.
Lübeck Musik- und Kongresshalle. August 30th 2008.
Wagner: Meistersinger ouverture
Flieder-monologue (Hans Sachs from Meistersinger)
Prelude to Walkure Act 3
Wotan´s Farewell (Leb wohl.., Walküre Act 3)
Gustav Mahler: Sinfonie Nr. 5 cis-Moll
This was German bass René Pape´s second public try-out with excerpts from Walküre and Meistersinger, the first one dating from Munich last year with Christian Thielemann, which is scheduled for CD release at some (as of now: Undefined) point. To compare these performances is however not possible, as Christian Thielemann drowned René Pape in Munich, a success he followed up with Renée Fleming this year.
First of all, I have never seen René Pape look this nervous on stage and he was nothing of his usual laconic self, in a way good to see. And after one minutes playing by the orchestra, it was clear why. He had no support whatsoever from the rather mediocre conductor, who completely lacked authority on the podium and producing a very muddled sound.
There is no doubt René Pape learned these pieces thoroughly or he wouldn´t have been able to make the right entrances at all. René Pape´s strategy apparently was to ignore the conductor completely without looking at him even once, just sing the way he wanted and then leave it to the conductor to pick up what was left. I don´t see what else he could have done, however I´d like to see him try that approach with Daniel Barenboim.
And who is Alan Gilbert? As most will know, but I had temporarily forgotten, he is in fact the upcoming musical director of the New York Philharmonics. A man with “that indefinable leadership quality that you look for.” But chose not to display here, obviously.
To the point: René Pape´s Wotan is beyond superb, both vocally and dramatically. I have no doubt that he will not be equalled in my lifetime. He is not even under real pressure in the top register, where he still manages piano notes and portamento. Furthermore, René Pape´s vocal range equals that of Hans Hotter - he has lost much of the power in the bottom notes over the past 5-6 years, though how he will do in the overall higher tessitura, remains to be seen, obviously.
Interpretatively, I would be more sceptical, if I hadn´t seen what emtionally staggerging performances he can pull off when he wants to, such as as Boris Godunov and Filippo (Don Carlo).
René Pape "Leb Wohl" (Wotan´s Abschied from Walkure):
Hans Sachs he, of course, can sing and more beautiful than anyone else I have heard. But why exactly does René Pape want to play a middle-aged cobbler, who steps away from life and leaves the living to others? It´s not obvious to me that this part suits him dramatically at all. And it has never made sense for me why he would schedule Hans Sachs so close to the Wotans, before he knows how this bass-barytone thing moves along. So it wasn´t really a surprise that he canceled his Berlin Hans Sachs appearances well in advance and now waits with Hans Sachs until "after the Wotans". My guess would be 2013+, the right decision, in case anyone should care to know my opinion.
René Pape with the Fliedermonologue (Hans Sachs from Meistersinger):
And Mahler´s 5th? I don´t know. Given the quality of orchestra playing before the intermission the choice between drinks and Mahler was rather easy. However, had I remembered, before sitting with my drink, that Alan Gilbert was upcoming NY Phil leader I probably would have stayed, just to get a better impression of his work.
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):