René Pape is a leading German bass, emerging into international attention at the beginning of the 1990s.
He had a musical upbringing in Dresden, where he was a member of the Dresden Kreuzchor. He studied singing at Dresden's Carl Maria von Weber Music Academy. After graduation, he was invited in 1988 to join the company of the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden. His joining East Germany's premiere opera company practically coincided with the unification of Berlin and Germany, and gave him opportunities to travel that would not have been so easily obtained just a few years earlier.
He sang the role of the Minister in Beethoven's Fidelio in both the Salzburg Easter Festival and the regular Salzburg Festival, both times under the baton of Kurt Masur. In 1991, he returned to Salzburg in the role of Sarastro in The Magic Flute, directed by Georg Solti, then repeated the role in his first Hamburg State Opera appearance.
He expanded into the dramatic baritone repertory as Banco in Verdi's Macbetto (in Frankfurt) and as King Philipp in Verdi's Don Carlos (in Basel). He sang the Beethoven role of the Minister again at Expo 1992 in Seville with the touring Metropolitan Opera Company. The New York opera house has also become like a second home to him, alongside the Berlin State Opera.
He has frequently sung as a guest artist at the Vienna State Opera. He was a favorite of Sir Georg Solti, who brought him to Chicago to sing in Haydn's The Seasons and in his worldwide 1991 video broadcast of Mozart's Requiem.
This brought Pape to the attention of broadcasters and record companies, so he has frequently performed both in radio and TV productions and on disc. His recordings include the role of Pogner in Die Meistersinger under Solti and as King Heinrich in Lohengrin with the Berlin Staatsoper. He has since sung most of Wagner's great bass roles. In July 2000, Pape was named a "Kammersanger of Berlin." His first solo recording, Gods, Kings & Demons, came in 2008; a disc of Wagner favorites came in 2011. In between those two, Pape made his solo recital debut at Carnegie Hall in 2009 and has since increased his recital touring, as opera and other performances allow.