Natalia Osipova as Esmeralda & Roberto Bolle as Quasimodo, Roland Petit Notre Dame de Paris Ballet picture image

Natalia Osipova as Esmeralda & Roberto Bolle as Quasimodo

 

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say this version of Quasimodo is more in keeping with the Laughton version. Indeed this Quasimodo falls into the more sad, devoted thoughtful brand of  Quasimodo.

There is nothing in this characterization  that is morose or hateful to the masses but nothing that worships Notre Dame either. Instead it seems like this Quasimodo wants to be a normal person and is devoted to Esmeralda.

Not a major departure for the character but you rarely see a Quasimodo trying to stand straight and failing. 

All in all it’s a very safe approach to the character. Time tested and audience approved.  People like the emotional pathos of the tragic disfigured figure of Quasimodo  and this is the characterization the ballet offers. 

Isabelle Guerin as Esmeralda Roland Petit Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Isabelle Guerin as Esmeralda Roland Petit Notre Dame de Paris

What can one really say about analyzing characters in a ballet? Yes, they have some traits of the characters from Hugo’s but nothing in depth. And that is okay.

With this version of Esmeralda we get that she is flirty at least when she dances and is generally kind.  She doesn’t have the innocence or superstitious streak that she has in the book but she does seem a bit shy about sleeping with Phoebus, so at least there is virginal quality of Esmeralda’s character is there in this ballet.

She doesn’t seem to fear Frollo as much until his attack on Phoebus. Unlike the book where she fears him very early on. In this ballet she does seem to be uncomfortable with his leering but it doesn’t seem like fear. This is not a big deal as many Esmeraldaa rarely fear Frollo from the onset.  

Esmeralda is sweet, kind, flirtatious and tragic in this version. So we have a baseline version of Esmeralda.  And for a ballet that is all she really needs to be.

Natalia Osipova as Esmeralda, Roberto Bolle as Quasimodo and Mick Zeni as Frollo, Roland Petit Notre Dame de Paris 2013 picture image

Natalia Osipova as Esmeralda, Roberto Bolle as Quasimodo and Mick Zeni as Frollo, Roland Petit Notre Dame de Paris 2013

 

This version of Hugo’s novel is very pared down to a very minimal telling of the story. You have the four principal characters: Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Frollo and Phoebus. The ballet doesn’t have  Gringoire, Clopin, Fleur de Lys, or extra characters.

As one can guess having only the love/lust plot-line it follows that trajectory and doesn’t concern its self with the subject of blight of the downtrodden, social justice or the modernity of the printing impact on architecture.

It starts with Quasimodo getting crown Pope of Fools, Frollo gets mad. Esmeralda dances to which she attracts the attention of Quasimodo and Frollo.

Frollo then has Quasimodo kidnap Esmeralda. And here is where we a deviation. After Quasimodo grabs Esmeralda they are set upon by the corps dressed in red. Now I was very confused, I had no idea what was happening. I thought it was maybe fire or that the dancers were somehow symbolic of Frollo’s lust. I didn’t know!

According to http://ticket.heraldtribune.com (an actually well-done review) the corps are portraying thugs. This makes sense both within the context of the ballet’s narrative and adapting Hugo’s story. In the original novel after the kidnapping, Gringoire, who was trying to help Esmeralda, is set upon by the Court of Miracles. However the thugs are now in this scene to help convey Quasimodo as more sympathetic as he is protecting Esmeralda. This adaption isn’t really necessary to story and could have been skipped but works to add more dancing which you need in a ballet.    

So after the thugs are dealt with, Phoebus then arrests Quasimodo. Phoebus notices Esmeralda and they are attracted to each other. Then Quasimodo is sentenced and Esmeralda gives him water.  Esmeralda and Phoebus have their tyst, though he flirts with whores prior and during their time together. That is to communicate Phoebus’ lack of romantic feelings towards Esmeralda and that he just in it for the sex.  He is then stabbed by Frollo. I’m pretty sure that Phoebus does in fact die in this version.

Esmeralda has her trial and is sentenced. Quasimodo then saves her from the gallows.

The second act is Esmeralda and Quasimodo bond. Frollo then attacks Esmeralda and I mean he slaps her a bunch. She is then dragged off to her death. Quasimodo strangles Frollo and then carries Esmeralda’s body away.

It is a very basic rendition of Hunchback which is fine for medium of ballet. You don’t want anything too complex but is this telling too simple? Perhaps. It is very pared down to a degree that basic disney’s knockoff have more developed story lines though that is not always a good thing. 

To be honest the narrative only works to convey mood, style and dancing and that is what this Ballet is all about. But we should address the character before getting to those points of interest.  

Way back in April 2018, I asked which  version of Hunchback should be next to review. I had a few versions of my radar, like the Dingo version and La Esmeralda. See post here

Now I did picked one a while but due to personal issues I wasn’t ready to sit down and go back down the rabbit hole. So I  put it off till now, hopefully.

Roland Petit's Notre Dame de Paris ballet picture image

Roland Petit’s Notre Dame de Paris ballet

The version that is up next was  a suggested by neala897 and it’s the Roland Petit Ballet. We will see how this goes because ballets are hard to review.

As of yet I have not watch the Ballet that will come later as I as fresh of perspective as possible.

But here is a little background information. Petit mounted Notre Dame de Paris in 1965 with music by Maurice Jarre.  Jarre was a film composer who did the music on films like Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Passage to India (1984.)    I will just say one source site the ballet as debuting in 1965 and another sites 1967, the point is this ballet is from the 60s.  

So let’s get into this. I’m going to watch the version performed by the Opéra national de Paris, 1996 with Isabelle Guérin as Esmeralda, Nicolas Le Riche as Quasimodo,  Laurent Hilaire as Frollo and  Manuel Legris as Phoebus.

Who has seen this version or at least this ballet before?

(Note – The picture is from the 2013 production)

Esmeralda & Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda & Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

After seeing a lot of version that felt like no effort was put into them it was refreshing to see that this ballet version tried to create an all round good HUnchback adaption. It told a version of the story that fit limits of a ballet but also catered to the advantage the medium can provide. Was this a perfect version? No, it did make some weird decisions with regards to the source material and add-ons, like that greek myth in the second act and have the Pope of Fools also in the second act.

For the most part this Ballet was good which why it’s harder to review. It’s a decent version of the book but even better if you let yourself get lost in the artist of ballet. Also helps if you like/appreciate ballet more than I do.

Like I said, Good Version of Hunchback are harder to review so let’s go for a not so good version.  What version should be next?

Next Version for Review?

  • 1977 (67%, 14 Votes)
  • Dingo version (24%, 5 Votes)
  • Other (Please Says in the Comments) (10%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 21

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Poll won’t expire for a while, may not get to the next version till the fall. This summer been hard/busy for me.

Sets

Sets of La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Sets of La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

For the most parts you don’t really notice the sets in this Ballet, mainly because so much of the attention is focused on the dancing, as it should be. If you do happen to  look at the sets you would see they are quite lovely.

The only set that is noticeable  would be  drop cloths that are used as transitions. They usually appear when characters are crossing the stage so there is little dancing taking part. The designs on the cloth is typically maps and   they have a nice cross hatching on them that make them feel like antique book illustrations. The concept of a basic though nicely done dropcloth does seem a little on the amateurish side but it does help set a tone.

The other sets are very well detailed and are more representational opposed to symbolic of Paris and Notre Dame. Meaning it looks like Notre Dame  instead of  columns and a gargoyle like  in Notre Dame de Paris. Neither approach is wrong just a style choice. Also Notre Dame is for most always seen in the distance. Always omnipresent. The realistic sets are also a good counter to the symbolist representation of the story through dance.

 

Lighting

Lighting of La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Lighting of La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

This is one of the strongest aspects on the show. It always convey the right mood and drama for the scene. The best use of lightening is during Frollo’s meltdown with  dancers bathed in red contrasted in cold blue of Frollo. Also the Pas de deux between Quasimodo and Esmeralda at the end in a wash of blue added to the tragic ending.

 

Music

Conductor of La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Conductor of La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

Not as crazy about the music. It sounded like it was trying to be the Dance of the Hours even though Ponchielli composed Dance of the Hours in 1876 and Pugni composed La Esmeralda in 1844. I don’t know much about 19th century music but the music didn’t to move me.  It wasn’t bad or incompetent by means. If you like the music that’s great but I do not. I  could just have unrefined tastes in music. 

Esmeralda & Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda & Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

So this pertains to the Kremlin version and not universal to the ballet productions as a whole.  For the most part the costumes in this version were pretty great. They expressed the characters and were made for dancing but I had issues with one costume. Can you guess which one?

 

It’s Esmeralda’s. 

Esmeralda La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

I can accept them putting her in red. While I fundamentally disagree with the choice I understand it. Red is a striking color and it stands out on stage. I get that and I can overlook that aspect.

Esmeralda & Phoebus, La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda & Phoebus, La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

On the whole I do not hate this costume. It’s pretty and a nice darkish shade of red. More like Scarlett. The tutu style of Esmeralda’s and all the tutus appears to be the Romantic style. She has little sleeves that almost like flutter sleeves that add nice motions. The asymmetry is nice with embroidered flower on one side of the bodice and balanced out by embroidered flowers on a hip scarf. As well as chain of gold coins. It does read as naive girly gypsy.

 Esmeralda La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

However there one aspect of this costume I do not agree with and it’s the color of the  under layer of the skirt. It’s black. You can see it most of the time so it’s very noticeable. Why Black? Is it to match her laces?  Because that the only other black on the costume. Is to foreshadow her tragic death?  Is because red and black as classic sith color and Esmeralda is tempted by the dark side? That was joke but that reason makes more sense than any things else. I really don’t understand this choice. Any other color would have been better. Or was it because black was a safe choice with red? I thought it stuck out.

Alexandra Timofeeva as Esmeralda, La Esmeralda Bellet, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Alexandra Timofeeva as Esmeralda, La Esmeralda Bellet, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

Not to bring up the book but there are few colors Hugo mentions for Emeralda, Gold, White, Blue and Green. Blue wouldn’t  have been a good choice as it’s Fleur de Lys’ color. White might have sticked out too much. Green would have been alright as it would have linked her to her backup dancers. Gold would have matched the cording on her bodice and the coin details so it would have fit into the costume. Pink would also been a good choice as it could have go with the flowers.

Esmeralda & Fleur de Lys, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda & Fleur de Lys, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

Speaking of the back-up dancers. There costume are near identical to Esmeralda but in green and they had headscarves. The head scarves are red as elements on their costume especially on the bodice. Their underlayer is also black but it does stick out as much.  The layer could have just been for economy and efficiency. This the main titular character  however I don’t think saving and money were an issue for her costume.

Esmeralda & Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda & Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

I really hated the color of the under layer since its purpose is to  add  grace to her movement but it was an ill-conceived choice to and other well-composed costume.  

Esmeralda & Gringoire, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda & Gringoire, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

The order of how the story plays outs in La Esmeralda is baffling. It’s near insulting to the original story. Who in their right mind puts a scene that is Quasimodo’s grand introduction halfway through the story? At least that is what I thought at first.

Quasimodo as The Pope of Fools, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Quasimodo as The Pope of Fools, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

Yes, it’s an odd choice to have key scenes like the kidnap attempt and the Pope of Fool to unfold out of sequence however it’s a ballet so the story can’t follow as rigidly to have the same dramatic flow of the book or movies.  The more I thought about the order of  the scenes as they appear in this Ballet the more I relived that the second act was lacking in context. There was more dramatic performance but they needed to pad out the runtime. This why that Greek myth segment was a major focus in the second act and why I think the Pope of Fools was at the start of second act. I think dramatic flow was the reason behind the switch of Esmeralda’s marriage to Gringoire and the kidnap attempt.   

   

Esmeralda & Phoebus, La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda & Phoebus, La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

Now I could be wrong, I know nothing about Ballets but the strategies for adapting a book into a ballets are different from movies or third-rate kid videos  based on better movies based on depressing French literature from the 1830s. I would say that the switching of the scenes is evident of the adaptation strategies employed by the creator(s) of La Esmeralda. So  while I may disagree with the choice in theory, I understand why they rearranged the story.   

I put a lot of thought into the pronouns for the subject line however there isn’t much to say on the characters’ characterizations, so we’re combining them into one post. 

Ye Gringoire

Esmeralda & Gringoire, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda & Gringoire, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

As Phoebus is Esmeralda’s primary  romances focus there isn’t that much for Gringoire to do especially in the second act. Gringoire does marry Esmeralda, tries REALLY hard to seduce her  and helps out with her act. Basically he is her friend. He does seem to be a writer as evident but him holding paper in his first number.  

One thing that confuses me and I’m sorry if I didn’t mention it before, Esmeralda marries Gringoire BEFORE meeting Phoebus. This means her rejecting  him is  less about being a naive girl who thinks she was in love with handsome soldier and is more about that she just isn’t into him. I don’t know but it seems less dramatic if you ask me, which no one did.

Back to Gringoire. His character seems to air on the side of comic relief. His numbers are light and almost fun. Esmeralda rebuffing him and indicating he would be hanged if he didn’t do as he was told were cute. Though he does try to something to Esmeralda when she was sleeping which is creepy, though he did do creepy things in the book, like spy on her through a keyhole so it’s not out of character but why would you have that but mess-up the order of the story.  There are some weird decisions in this ballet.

He does seem like a good friend to Esmeralda. He tries and comforts her when she learns about Fleur de Lys and he gives her two hugs in the second act. Once right before the first execution attempt and a second right before she actually executed. Since there is no attack on Notre Dame to save her hugs are all he really does and maybe that is enough to show he cares.       

 

Il Clopin

Clopin, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Clopin, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

Clopin is definitely there. Since he looks like a pirate I would say that he is a leader of Court of Miracle- Leader of the Thieves and not the Duke of Egypt- Leader of the Romani. So many version combine the two characters and yet I’m pretty sure there was a third guy in that leader mix.  Yet the text is confusing because it makes it seem like Clopin has all these titles, like Daenerys Targaryen, so reading the book I got confused and felt like an idiot that I would even think that Clopin wasn’t the Duke of Egypt   but yes Clopin and the Duke are separate characters and there is a third guy, the Emperor of Galilee. Duke’s given name is Mathias Hungadi Spicali and the Emperor’s name is Gulillaume Rousseau. I do recall the duke being in the 1950’s version and the Jetlag version but no version has had a the Emperor of Galilee for good reason he is fat drunk who doesn’t do anything that I can recall.

Anyway back to this Ballet’s version of Clopin, I assume that is what they call him  but I can’t read cyrillic so I don’t really know.  While he doesn’t lead the attack on Notre Dame he does care for Esmeralda as evident by a hug he gives her in the second act.

He does try to hang Gringoire, which a one of Clopin’s tasks and oddly like the Disney movie he hosts the Pope of Fools crowning. Not much to him but he seems like a jovial guy in an eyepatch.

 

De Fleur de Lys   

 

Fleur de Lys & Phoebus, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Fleur de Lys & Phoebus, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

Fleur de Lys is a justifiable bitch, like in the 1956 version, I’m starting to see a little bit of a pattern. She loves Phoebus but her gives his love away to another girl. This metaphor is made clear by the scarf Fleur gives Phoebus which he gives to Esmeralda.
Unlike some other versions of Fleur, this version of her doesn’t help bring Esmeralda down or revel in her death. She is just sad and angry  about Phoebus loving someone else but she does take him back without question and marries him. She is boring in this version and that is about it.  

Esmeralda & Phoebus, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda & Phoebus, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

Unlike the other characters we have looked at so far, Phoebus’ depiction is a bit different from the book. In all honesty he isn’t like his book persona but instead he resembles how Phoebus was adapted in the 1956 French movie. I’m willing to bet that the movie took its cues from the ballet, that is if this version of ballet is the same as first ballet from 1844 and not a version of the ballet created after 1956, I have now confused myself.  If I had to guess I would still say this characterization of Phoebus is from the 1844 ballet.

 Esmeralda & Phoebus, La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda & Phoebus, La Esmeralda Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

So how is this ballet Phoebus like 1956 Phoebus? For starts this Phoebus does seem to genuinely like Esmeralda as evident by the scarf. Though not in either the book or the 1956, Fleur de Lys gives Phoebus a scarf which he give to Esmeralda.When Esmeralda learn of Fleur de Lys, she  sadly tries to give it back to Phoebus and motions for her to keep it.  Basically the scarf is a symbol for  love. One of the real tragedies is that Phoebus goes back to Fleur after Esmeralda is sentenced to death. In the 1956 version it seems like a defeatist move that he couldn’t be with Esmeralda, not sure what his motive is the ballet but it’s probably the same thing.  He can’t be with the one he loves so he settles.

Phoebus & Fleur de Lys, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Phoebus & Fleur de Lys, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

There isn’t much more to this Phoebus, he just a dashing romantic knight, they kept it nice and simple.