St Matthew Passion Hamburg Ballet Kwai Tsing Theatre Hamburg Ballet returned to Hong Kong with a four-hour work, St Matthew Passion, a 1981 ballet set to Bach's monumental work by its artistic director John Neumeier. Based on the apostle's account of the death of Christ, Neumeier's approach, however, is not a straightforward retelling of the story. Christ is the only permanently defined character, admirably danced throughout the work by principal dancer Lloyd Riggins. The ballet opened ambitiously with the cast of 41 white-clad dancers massing in four different groupings on the stage, which had a raised platform on the back and a dais on the right. The religious fervour was emphasised by a lot of high-flung arm movements by the dancers who performed in solos, duets, trios and quartets. Earlier, there was an expressive trio for two men and a woman who formed a human bridge. And later there was an exciting male trio for the two principals, Otto Bubenicek and Jiri Bubenicek, and the young talented soloist Peter Dingle. The choreography was more interesting for the men in general than for the women. Silvia Azzoni impressed in a solo. The first half ended in the depiction of the Last Supper and Judas' betrayal of Christ. Ivan Urban was charismatic as the Judas figure. The dark angst-ridden tone continued relentlessly in the longer second half, which climaxed in images depicting the Crucifixion and the descent from the cross. Would that there were more contrasting lighter episodes. Momentum sagged slightly half way through, which was not helped by the repetitive choreography. However, there were flashes of brilliance from the dancers. Ivan Urban dazzled in a solo showing off rich elasticity in his upper body and airy jumps. Peter Dingle had a good theatrical presence and Laura Cazzaniga was an expressive dancer grieving in her solo. Overall an ambitious work, no doubt, though over-extended in the second half. This week Hong Kong audiences can see the Hamburg Ballet in two other full-length ballets by Neumeier - Lady of the Camellias and Nijinsky.