LAST EDITED ON 27-05-01 AT 04:23 AM (GMT)
I'll write a proper review including the Lyons Opera Ballet which I also saw last weekend.
Last weekend saw a welcome return to Hong Kong by the Stuttgart Ballet after its last tour in 1996. This time they brought to the Shatin Town Hall "The Taming of the Shrew", a key work by its founder choreographer John Cranko which has delighted audiences worldwide since its premiere in 1969.
Cranko's spectacular two-act version of this Shakespeare comedy, set to a bubbling and vivacious score by Stolze, is a cracker. The choreography is full of good fun and humour, as well as many heart-stirring moments in the various pas de deux at the heart of this ballet. The first night audience loved every minute of it, and it's a long time since I had heard so much laughter from a local dance audience. The loud ovations at the end recalled the ecstatic reception for the American Ballet Theatre last autumn, especially after Angel Corella's dazzling performance in "Le Corsaire" pas de deux.
However the choreography for the ensemble dances in the masked ball and wedding scenes is rather simplistic and too linear, lacking a crucial third dimension to captivate the eye. And the minor roles of Gremio and Hortensio, though well danced by Thomas Lempertz and Douglas Lee, are nothing more than caricatures, since their characterisations are only cardboard-thin.
Fortunately Cranko scored in his writing for the main roles - the two pairs of lovers. Stuttgart Ballet, now under the directorship of former dancer Reid Anderson, continues to be a superb ensemble of dance actors who can illuminate this dance drama. As Katherine, Yseult Lendvai was a boisterous girl in the early rowdy scenes before being transfixed by Petruchio's love. In the final pas de deux in Act 2, she was transcendent and surrendered totally to her Petruchio in the swirls and tides of Cranko's choregraphy full of lifts. Lendvai extracted every emotional nuance from the soaring choreography.
Petruchio was danced by Maximiliano Guerra who showed off his dazzling virtuosity with flair and panache. He was a splendid partner as well. I was also impressed by the radiant Elena Tentschikowa who danced Bianca. This Kirov-trained dancer has beautiful footwork and was totally ravishing in the duets.
In the second cast on Sunday afternoon led by Sue Jin Kang and Robert Conn, particularly noteworthy was the tall and handsome demi-soloist Ivan Gil Ortega as Bianca's lover Lucentio. Ortega has a long and beautiful line and all the makings of a danseur noble.
Last weekend was an unusually busy time for Hong Kong balletgoers. I also caught the Lyons Opera Ballet making its second appearance in our annual French May Festival organised by the Consulate General of France and the Alliance Francaise. The programme at the Academy For Performing Arts opened with Pascal Touzeau's "Final Lecture", an exciting ensemble ballet with the dancers clad in red costumes against a white backdrop enhanced by very striking lighting.
Dancers form a variety of interesting configurations and groupings in their rapid razor-sharp movements. The action is often dispersed, and there is not always a main action in the centre of the stage, e.g. two dances take place simultaneously on each side of the stage. Towards the end there is an angst-ridden pas de deux.
Less satisfying is the middle work "Black Milk", by Israeli choreographer Ohad Nharin, which is a short macho dance for five of the company's male dancers. It is totally incomprehensible why each dancer takes turn to smear mud on the face in one episode.
The final work "Bolero", choreographed by Australian choreographer Meryl Tankard, is more a special-effects work than pure dance. Dancers perform behind a white backdrop upon which their magnified images are projected. There are some fascinating overlappings of images, evoking a dreamland of apparitions. This work was a spectacular finale to the evening though somewhat thin in dance content.