But even her fine, thoughtful performance could not save the latest in a series of drab, bland new productions at the Met. As in Michael Grandage’s Don Giovanni, there was an arbitrary quality to the stage action in this Faust, which was energized by Yannick Nezet-Seguin’s warmly propulsive conducting but chilled by a vision that seemed less rigorous than harshly scattered. Handsome and with burnished tone, Mr. Kaufmann is the platonic ideal of the Romantic leading man but he seemed underdirected and at sea, ringing in climactic high notes but muted elsewhere.
It takes a very specific, very self-motivated singer to make a production like this work. The stage mostly just seemed empty; as in Robert Lepage’s Ring cycle, there were attempts to engage the eye with video projections, but these were particularly cheesy ones. Once again there seemed to be little coherence in a director’s work at the Met; Mr. Gelb tends to be convinced by a one-line concept or the phrase “Tony Award winner.” Ms. Poplavskaya is far more interesting than much of the rest of the production, but she is far less easily compressed into marketing copy.