Meanwhile, here's a brief night-by-night rundown of the second cycle:
—Substituting on short notice for the wonderful character tenor Stefan Margita in the role of Loge, Adam Klein made a strong impression, once past a tentative start possibly caused by the staging, which requires him to repeatedly walk backward uphill.
—The malfunctions that plagued the production previously were mostly gone, but not entirely. In the final scene, the hammock in which the giants place Freia while gold is piled on top of her didn't descend smoothly, and soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer was visibly uncomfortable until it settled down. This is one of Lepage's lamer ideas, anyway, since the audience can plainly see Freia even when she is supposed to be completely covered by the gold.
—In another last-minute casting switch, the Met brought in Dutch tenor Frank van Aken for the unenviable task of subbing for the ailing Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund. Van Aken, who is married to soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek, was in town to watch her perform the role of Sieglinde. It had the makings of a great story, but sadly van Aken's singing was underpowered and he came close to cracking several times. By contrast, Westbroek, whose own debut a year ago was marred by illness, sounded wonderful, her warm, vibrant soprano flooding the auditorium, especially on the long-held phrases of "O herhstes Wunder!"
—Early in Act 2, Wotan's spear rolled off the mountainside and fell to the apron, coming to rest just a few feet from the orchestra pit. Terfel discreetly reclaimed it without missing a beat.
—In the marathon title role, tenor Jay Hunter Morris paced himself so well that he actually sounded stronger as the night progressed. His disarming portrayal made this young superhero seem less oafish than usual, too. As Mime, the conniving dwarf who has raised Siegfried, tenor Gerhard Siegel sang and twitched his way through the role in high style.
—Another late substitution, this time for Owens, who canceled because of a sore throat. Richard Paul Fink took over in fine form as Alberich, who appears in a dream to his sleeping son, Hagen.
—In the final moments of the cycle, the drama is undercut in part by the silly mechanical horse Bruennhilde must ride into Siegfried's funeral pyre. The destruction of Valhalla is depicted through plaster statues of five gods. Their heads no longer explode — an effect that drew laughter earlier in the season; now they just crumble to pieces.
It's an underwhelming conclusion for a project that was launched amid such great hope and excitement. Bruennhilde's selfless sacrifice may save the world, but this production now seems beyond redemption.