What Robert Lepage began so spectacularly with “Das Rheingold” has ended in a visual mishmash with “Gotterdammerung,” the fourth opera in Richard Wagner tetralogy “The Ring of the Nibelung.” Fabio Luisi’s conducting continues to be taut, almost driven; the cast, led by a vocally reborn Deborah Voigt as Brunnhilde, is topnotch; but Lepage’s umpteen-ton monolith of connected piano keys has become less intriguing, more superfluous to Wagner’s drama with each opera.
The hyper-realistic imagery of forests and waterfalls returns for this fourth and final chapter in the twilight-of-the-gods saga. But “Gotterdammerung” is a little late in the story to introduce op art visuals and trippy colors from a Jimi Hendrix poster. Also, the production looks oddly unfinished. The Met’s vast cyclorama, home to so many awesome skyscapes, runs the spectrum from steel gray to pale beige for most of the five-plus-hour evening. And the actors, when they exit or enter downstage, have to take a step to get to and from the playing area.
Whatever happened to Lepage’s imagination, which gave the characters of “Das Rheingold” so many thrilling exits and entrances? Three operas later, the singers pretty much saunter on and off downstage. They rarely interact with the set, much less inhabit it; rather, those suspended planks that fold and rotate are now a mere backdrop for the action.
When he’s working on all cylinders, Lepage can conjure up some dazzling visuals, but as evidenced here, he’s not much of a director of people. He gives them a few feet down front to do their business, while that big set behind them morphs into a new shape to project streams, trees or lava-lamp abstractions. Big disappointment: The apocalypse comes when five statues representing the gods (I think) get their plaster heads blown off.
In “Das Rheingold” Lepage didn’t give any great insight into Wagner’s masterpiece, but he did tell the complicated story effectively and, at its best, the production offered a grand visual representation of the magnificent music.
Thank the gods for that music. Under Luisi’s baton, Voigt is a gut-wrenching, stridently passionate and wounded warrior. Her Siegfried, Jay Hunter Morris, does not possess a trumpet voice, but he presents a more than adequate, honorable portrait and actually makes dramatic sense of this boy-man-hero-fool. In more ways than one, he’s no match for the stentorian Hans-Peter Konig, whose Hagen continues his family’s bad business and almost gets the ring back. Maybe next cycle.
The Met Opera transmits live to movie theaters the Feb. 11 performance of “Gotterdammerung” at 12 p.m. ET.