Hong Kong Ballet’s offering this autumn was a revival of the 2010 production of the 19th century Tchaikovsky classic “The Sleeping Beauty” by Cynthia Harvey, a former principal of both the American Ballet Theatre and Royal Ballet.
Since the company is slightly smaller in size than the major ballet companies in the world, this production has been adapted and cut slightly to suit the company’s resources. It lasts for just under three hours with two intervals. The hunting party episode in the beginning of Act 2 has been cut short, and in Act 3 some of the divertissements have been excised.
Harvey has sensibly retained most of the traditional Petipa choreography. She only added her own choreography in some sections without definitive choreography – the knitting ladies’ episode and the garland dance in Act 1, the Prince’s introductory solo in Act 2, and the jewels dance in Act 3. Overall it is a sound and pleasing production.
The Saturday night cast was led by Ye Feifei and the Brazilian guest Daniel Camargo. Ye looked slightly mature to convince as the teenaged Aurora, but it was more than compensated by her fine acting. Her dancing was excellent throughout the evening. In Act 1, her balances in the Rose Adagio were rock solid. In the Act 2 vision scene, she was expressive. In the grand pas de deux in Act 3, the three fish dives were glorious, and her solo sparkled brightly with joy.
Camargo, returning to guest with the company, was noble and handsome as her prince. In the Act 3 pas de deux, his solo was most spectacular in technical virtuosity, drawing the loudest applause all evening. Wei Wei was superb as the evil fairy Carabosse. In the supporting roles, Kai Kanzaki was a dazzling Blue Bird, and Wang Zi was exciting in his Jewels solo. In the prologue, Jessica Burrows impressed in the second fairy solo.
Two nights earlier, the opening performance was also noteworthy, being the debut as Aurora by Amber Lewis, a talented soloist of the company. Her remarkable debut as Kitri in “Don Quixote” last year was memorable. She was partnered on this occasion by Wei Wei, who is going to retire after this program of “Sleeping Beauty”. The last performance on Sunday night was Wei’s farewell performance, and a tribute to his distinguished 19-year career with the company.
Lewis was technically strong, she managed the difficult Rose Adagio in Act 1 with ease. Only in the final act were there some blemishes in her performance. As the Prince, Wei Wei danced and partnered strongly. And Jonathan Spigner impressed in his Jewels solo in the final act.
The costume and set designs are by Mark Bailey. The décor is rather sparse. There is a dominating fan-shaped set at the back of the stage with supporting panels on the side that are changed in different scenes. In the court scenes, the panels seem vaguely to depict a hall of mirrors in a rococo style palace.
Less satisfactory are the costumes. It is incomprehensible why no tutus are used in this classic. The green costumes for the nymphs in Act 2 have too many sequins and are too gaudy, befitting a Christmas ball instead. Yip Wing-sie conducted the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, which will also provide accompaniment for the Hong Kong Ballet’s new production of “The Nutcracker” this December by artistic director Septime Webre.