Earlier this season, the hypnotic if saturnine German bass René Pape sang his first Falstaff in Nicolai’s Merry Wives of Windsor, a sparkler too seldom exported beyond German-speaking regions. Now, in the same house, he adds the skirt-chasing fortune-hunter Baron Ochs of Der Rosenkavalier, an opulent Strauss confection beloved all over the world. He’s a long way from signature roles like Mozart’s Sarastro, in The Magic Flute; Verdi’s King Philip, in Don Carlos; Wagner’s Gurnemanz, in Parsifal. But the actor who can encompass parts as different as those should have no problem with comedy. As Pape surely knows, the secret is to play for high stakes, and never for a laugh. —M.G.