Magnificent playing by the orchestra, inspired conducting by Fabio Luisi and a rapturous performance of the "Immolation Scene" by Katarina Dalayman brought the Metropolitan Opera's latest "Ring" cycle to a thrilling conclusion.
"Goetterdaemmerung," the fourth and final opera in Wagner's epic, takes 5½ hours to unfold, but the time seemed to fly by Thursday night, thanks to strong casting down the line — especially in the two lead roles. Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried again proved he is one of the few tenors around who can look and act the part of the gullible superhero convincingly and also sustain an appealing sound. In fact, Morris grew stronger as the night wore on, singing his Act 3 narrative with a sweetness of tone rare among Wagnerian heroes.
As Bruennhilde, Dalayman used her warm and lustrous voice with great flexibility, and her acting vividly conveyed her character's range of emotions, from passionate love to bewildered rage. A few high notes had an unpleasant piercing quality, but these were less obtrusive than when she sang the role here last year. At the end of the night, commanding the stage uninterrupted for 15 minutes, the Swedish soprano seemed to enter a kind of trance, and the focused intensity of her singing swept the audience along with her.
Unfortunately, the Robert Lepage production, with its 24 creaking metal planks, remains as dramatically inert as ever, spoiling the conclusion from a visual perspective. Bruennhilde still rides that silly mechanical horse toward Siegfried's funeral pyre, and statues of the gods still crumble anti-climactically as flames consume Valhalla.
The other hero of the night was Luisi, whose interpretation has deepened since he took over conducting duties for this "Ring" back in 2011 when James Levine had to bow out. There was a sweep and excitement to this "Goetterdaemmerung" far more compelling than the cool, clinical approach he seemed to favor initially. The orchestra has rarely sounded better.
All the other cast members, from Norns to Rhinemaidens, gave strong performances. Bass Hans Peter Koenig repeated his eagerly malevolent Hagen; baritone Iain Paterson etched a portrait of moral weakness as Gunther; mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill was a rich-voiced Waltraute; Wendy Bryn Harmer displayed a gleaming soprano as Gutrune; and Eric Owens, lowering his potent bass-baritone voice to a whisper at times, made Alberich a frightening, writhing figure consumed by hatred.
The third and final cycle of the season kicks off Saturday night with "Das Rheingold" featuring some new cast members. Elizabeth Bishop will sing the role of Fricka, replacing an ailing Stephanie Blythe. For Bishop, it will mean a rare double-header, since she is also scheduled to sing the role of Mother Marie in Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmelites" that afternoon.
Baritone Greer Grimsley will sing his first Wotan at the Met, and next week tenor Lars Cleveman debuts as Siegfried.