René Pape – Wagner
with Placido Domingo, tenor
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2011
This is a recording which (vocally speaking) lacks very little to be good. René Pape has all the credentials to be an excellent Wagnerian singer and stands out in particular for the magnificent phrasing and his harmonious voice, not to mention the perfect diction, which is the least we can expect from a German singer. His real limit is an almost total lack of dramatic sense: although the intrinsic qualities of the voice will remedy this weakness in part, so that you never perceive a real indifference towards the characters, yet they lack that “something” that differentiates one from the other. There are small attempts to do something, however: a certain melancholy is sensed in Wotan’s farewell to Brünnhilde (the aria at the beginning of the album), but it is limited to the three consecutive «Leb’ wohl!» These are little details which are repeated, in various forms and ways, in the subsequent arias and this, if it remedies a little, it is not enough in the general context. The fact remains, however, that you can listen to Pape with pleasure and what I said did not mean that he is not an excellent singer.
Placido Domingo’s collaboration is very welcome in the long scene from Parsifal, to which is dedicated a substantial part of the album. Domingo is recognizable right from his entrance, with a secure beginning, almost surprisingly for his powerful burst in a relatively quiet moment, and after that he distinguishes himself for his great personality and beautiful phrasing and for his singing, where there is not the slightest trace of fatigue. If this recording has a note of colour, it is due precisely to this stage veteran.
The real limit, on the other hand, is the weak and pale direction of Daniel Barenboim, who I never found convincing as Wagnerian conductor, despite his omnipresence in this repertoire. In general, his direction lacks the energy necessary to give splendour to the constant flow of music. Even if he avoid unpleasant chant, the result remains lacklustre. Highlights lack of vigour and the more delicate or quiet moments are likely to bring down the listener’s attention.