Dance review: Hong Kong Ballet's Turandot - Zhang Siyuan shines in title role

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 February, 2015, 6:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 February, 2015, 6:00am

Hong Kong Ballet 

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre

Reviewed: February 7

Natalie Weir's Turandot has established itself as a pillar of Hong Kong Ballet's repertoire. Created in 2004, it demonstrated its staying power when revived in 2012 and returned to the local stage this month fresh from a well-received US premiere last November.

The ballet is performed to a recording of Puccini's opera, edited down to the essential story. The beautiful Princess Turandot, who hates and fears men, lures suitors by promising to marry them if they can answer three riddles. If they fail, they are executed. Returning to his hometown, Calaf's joy at being reunited with his blind father Timur and faithful servant girl Liu turns to horror when he discovers Turandot's cruelty. Vowing to put an end to the killing, he presents himself as a suitor and succeeds in winning the princess's hand and heart, although only after the selfless Liu has died to protect him.

The production is a superb piece of theatre, distinguished by Weir's fine choreography and Bill Haycock's stunning designs.

Dancing the title role for just the third time, Zhang Siyuan made it her own. As seductive as she is imperious, her Turandot gloats over her prey like a gorgeous, glittering praying mantis. Zhang is equally convincing portraying Turandot's anguish over the ancestor whose rape and murder inspired her hatred of men and her rapturous discovery of love. Her dancing is magnificent, with the long-held arabesques that are a signature of the role a high point.

Li Jiabo made an impressive debut as Calaf two years ago. He has maintained the passion and emotional intensity of that performance while adding greater technical assurance, particularly in the partnering with its many soaring lifts. Li's physicality and freedom of movement are ideal for Weir's choreography and this is an outstanding interpretation.

Dong Ruixue was an exquisite Liu - touching in her devotion to Timur and Calaf, lyrical in her dancing, her body responding to the choreography with immense expressiveness.

The cast was excellent, with a special word for the 10 couples who form the chorus and for Sarah Yeung and Kostyantyn Keshyshev's powerful account of the rape scene.

Natasha Rogai