René Pape was born in Dresden. He received his musical education at the Carl Maria von Weber College of Music in Dresden. In 1988, while still a student, Pape had his debut with the Berlin State Opera. He is still with the same Company today. At the Berlin State Opera, Pape has performed the majority of the main parts in his repertoire, including Rocco (Fidelio), King Marke (Tristan und Isolde), King Heinrich (Lohengrin), Pogner (Die Meistersinger), Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro), Leporello and Don Giovanni (Don Giovanni) under the baton of Daniel Barenboim, as well as Ramfis in Aida, King Philip II in Don Carlos, Gurnemanz in Parsifal, and Boris Godunov in the eponymous opera conducted by Zubin Mehta. In 1994, René Pape made his debut as Fasolt in Das Rheingold at the Bayreuth Festival. In 1995, he debuted as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte at the Salzburg Festival and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera House. Since that same year, Pape has been a guest soloist with the Met, where he has sung over 20 roles in more than 160 productions.
Pape has also performed at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, opera theatres in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Bavarian State Opera, at the festivals in Bayreuth, Glyndebourne, Lucerne, Salzburg, Verbier, the International F.I. Chaliapin Opera Festival in Kazan, and the Stars of the White Nights festival.
His engagements for the 2016-2017 seasons include the performances as King Philip II (Don Carlos) in Zurich, King Heinrich (Lohengrin) at the Opéra de Paris, solo debut at the Wigmore Hall in London, a performance with Catherine Foster and Klaus Florian Vogt in Wiesbaden, as well as a solo concert at the Teatro alla Scala.
René Pape has collaborated with such record companies as BMG, EMI, Deutsche Grammophon and TELDEC. In 2004, Pape took part in the recording of the Mein Herz brenntsong-cycle, composed by Torsten Rasch (Deutsche Grammophon) and based on the music by Rammstein adapted for for bassbaritone, soprano, chorus, speaker and orchestra. In 2008, Pape recorded his solo CD Gods, Kings & Demons on Deutsche Grammophon (for which he received an ECHO Award); while in 2011, he released a CD with the arias from Wagner’s operas. In 2015, Pape took part in the recording of the opera Macbeth with Anna Netrebko and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under the baton of Fabio Luisi. ARTE made a television film about René Pape within the Maestro series.
Pape has received two Grammys for his recordings (in 1997 and in 2002). In 2001, he was named Vocalist of the Year by Musical America. In 2007, Pape received an Opera News Award. In 2010, he was also awarded a MET Meistersinger.