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.        

Frollo and Esmeralda, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

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

This iteration of Frollo is pretty by the book except for the lack of backstory and alchemy. He doesn’t have a brother but since the ballet doesn’t go in Frollo’s motivates for looking after Quasimodo there is a little point to Jehan as character. Not complaining, never liked Jehan.

Frollo and Esmeralda, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

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

This Frollo is a priest and hangs out with Quasimodo. This Frollo does all the classic thing you would expect from a fairy straightforward Book, like obsesses over Esmeralda but feel tortured over the lack of control and then gets pulled down into committing terrible action against her and Phoebus.

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

Frollo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

I’d say it was pretty standard although half the time Frollo is a creepy villain instead of creepy villain who was good yet stern guy who tried but couldn’t beat his own chemical impulses when he saw a really pretty girl. I’m trivializing Frollo’s internal struggles but even with the limitations of a ballet this version does get the point of Frollo across.

Quasimodo, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Quasimodo, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

In the realm of Quasimodo adaptations, this one opts for the sweet pathetic type. There is zero edge to him and that made him boring. Quasimodo in this version exists solely for the purpose of Esmeralda. He like-likes her, saves her and dies for her. While all that exists in the book Quasimodo doesn’t strictly die because of Esmeralda, he also dies because he killed Frollo. Adaptations forget that Quasimodo did love Frollo too and while he did kill Frollo for what he did to Esmeralda, he did so in a fit of rage. Honestly few versions really understand Quasimodo, they just see the pathos of his character but not his mind or half of his characterization.

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

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

As it’s stands with this Ballet, Quasimodo doesn’t have a strong attachment to Frollo and there is no backstory. The lack of the backstory is not a huge issue as it’s ballet, it’s forgivable but there is somethings that unforgivable. Quasimodo doesn’t seem to care about Notre Dame, like the cathedral is barely in the ballet. Fleur de Lys’ parlour has more stage time that Notre Dame. That just seems wrong. Also the Pope of Fools part was shoe-horned in middle of the ballet for little reason. It didn’t even makes sense after the whole kidnap attempt scene to have the Pope of Fools. The point of which is to show Frollo’s powers over Quasimodo and the then how the relationship is damaged after Frollo leaves Quasimodo to suffer for his crime. It would have been better not to have the Pope of Fools scene than messing up the order and their relationship dynamic.   

Quasimodo & Frollo, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Quasimodo & Frollo, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

One could argue that this Esmeralda’s story and messing with the dynamic of Quasimodo and Frollo is inconsequential to the emotional impact for her tragedy but that is misguided. You can’t show Esmeralda’s place in Quasimodo’s heart without the juxtaposition of Frollo or even Notre Dame in Quasimodo’s world.   

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

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

Quasimodo in this version just exists for Esmeralda. It’s akin more closely to Disney Quasimodo’s  schoolboy crush but in the guise of a tragic ballet.

Due to forces beyond my control, I have to postpone the next review post this week.

So instead you can just watch the Ballet,

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

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

Quite honestly I’m not sure how to address the analysis of characters as they are depicted in a ballet. Sure, there IS a characterization being portrayed but it’s not deep or as nuanced as something like Enchanted Tales or the Dingo versions, I’m totally kidding. The characters in this ballet have to be simpler than their book counterparts because of the nature of the medium. However since I have more or less groove to these reviews, I have to look at the characters so starting off with the real titular character, La Esmeralda.

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

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

 

Actually this version of Esmeralda is on point. She comes off very sweet, childish, has romantic notions and is innocent. She has all of Esmeralda’s best book traits. She doesn’t pout, doesn’t seems shallow or foolish, seriously what person would prefer wilted flowers because the vase of was prettier than fresh flowers is a clay pot? That’s not a scene you ever see adapted.

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

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

I’ll admit it’s been awhile since I have re-read the book so you guys can correct me if I’m wrong, since I’m wrong a lot, but I think there was a part where Esmeralda was trying to rationalize Phoebus’ relationship with Fleur de Lys as not romantic. I bring that up here because Esmeralda doesn’t do that. She sees Fleur de Lys with Phoebus and gets very depressed even though she is supposed to be performing for them, ballets seem to have lot of meta moments like that.

 

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

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

 

There isn’t that much to say that is negative about this depiction since it’s all of Esmeralda’s more positive attributes and it done very simply and straightforward. She’s youthful, kind and pretty  yet tragic no wonder this story has such staying power as ballet.   

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

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

Just a side note, I really enjoy Esmeralda walking on pointe around the stage, I can only guess this is a difficult move but the way they convey it to express a certain vulnerability is very lovely.  

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

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

Ballets unlike movie have to convey all the story element through only motions and  gestures. This makes ballets more like a silent movie without the intertext panels. For the most La Esmeralda does tell the basic story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame/Notre Dame de Paris however it does have some weird differences that don’t really impact the narrative but should be mentioned.

Esmeralda begging Phoebus o spare Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda begging Phoebus o spare Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

There is no pillory scene and so Quasimodo is never punished for Frollo’s crimes. He does nearly get arrested and Esmeralda begs for his release. This takes the place of the pillory scene as it’s the kindness of Esmeralda he falls in love with. Is it as impactful? No but it’s gets the job done.

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

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

Quasimodo is crowned the Pope of Fools nearly halfway through the performance. Not sure why they bothered moving this scene so late in the show. Would have been better easier as at this point the division of Quasimodo and Frollo have already started and this felt tacked on and unnecessary. Sure it’s a very important scene in the story but to place it after Quasimodo expresses a love and loyalty for someone other than Frollo shows a misunderstanding of the characters.

Frollo and Esmeralda, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

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

Another weird odd change is the movement of the Red Door scene. I didn’t even recognize it as the Red Door scene, or the scene where Frollo tries to force himself on Esmeralda during her sanctuary in Notre Dame, I thought it was an additional scene for the Ballet and I JUST figured it out was the Red Door scene. It’s a bizarre placement as it occurs right after Frollo tries to abduct Esmeralda and she returns to her  dwelling. Frollo hasn’t even stab Phoebus yet, his torture, lust and lack of self control hasn’t gotten to this point yet.  It comes off like an old cartoon from the 1930’s where the villain chases an innocent maiden around a room till the hero bursts in and Quasimodo does bursts in saves Esmeralda.  Don’t misconstrues this, the choreography is lovely but it shows that the people who originally did this Ballet lack an understanding of the characters, mostly Frollo and Quasimodo.       

Artemis & Apollo(?), Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Artemis & Apollo(?), Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

One thing that was really annoying about the ballet is the padding out it does especially with Fleur de Lys’ party scenes. There is one scene where Fleur de Lys is have a performance done  of Artemis and maybe Apollo. I can only guess at Apollo because it would be a clever call back to Phoebus. Performances in performances are intriguing as it makes the audience part of the performance but here it just dragged things on. It could be for a practical purpose of allowing the principal dancers a ten minute breather but again I do not know the ins and outs of ballet. As beautiful as the performance of the myth was it interrupted the flow of the story.  

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

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

For most people these changes are not going to impact their overall enjoyment of the ballet as it does capture the emotional impact of the story but the seemingly minor changes does suggest that someone in charge at some point didn’t have a great working knowledge of the finer points of the characters and the story. 

(Note- Not all the ballet version of La Esmeralda depict the story like this.)

Or at least as the Kremlin performance depicts it.

Frollo and Esmeralda, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

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

Pretty much all the major, overall story beats are hit in this version and this an approximation of the plot, it’s possible things are misconstrued . First we have Phoebus and Fleur-de Lys getting engaged. Fleur de Lys gives him a scarf.   The the court of miracle dance along with Gringoire and Esmeralda. Frollo scares her. Quasimodo stops Frollo from scaring her too. Frollo is torment by his lust for the young dancer. Gringoire follows Esmeralda to the Court  of Miracle where he is nearly killed but Esmeralda marries him to save his life. She also rejects his romantic advances.

Esmeralda begging Phoebus o spare Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

Esmeralda begging Phoebus o spare Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow

Frollo and Quasimodo are out roaming the streets when Esmeralda just so happens to be wandering by. Frollo has Quasimodo try to kidnap her but Phoebus and the guard show up. Esmeralda and Phoebus fall in love and he gives her the scarf that Fleur de Lys gave him. As the guards are about to take Quasimodo away, Esmeralda beg mercy for him and Phoebus lets Quasimodo go. Quasimodo then falls in love with Esmeralda.

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

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

Esmeralda return to her dwelling happy about meeting Phoebus. As she trying to fall asleep Gringoire tries again with the romance, I really hope he wasn’t trying to force himself on her. Esmeralda rebuffs and pulls out her dagger. She basically tells him no and if he acts up he’ll be hanged. So friends they shall be, or maybe co-workers.

Frollo and Esmeralda, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

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

Esmeralda tries to go to sleep but Frollo enters her dwelling. Frollo tries to win her over with forces, not really sure what he was doing but Quasimodo helps Esmeralda escape and Frollo takes her dagger.

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

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

The there is a party at Fleur de Lys’. Esmeralda and Gringoire perform but when Esmeralda sees Phoebus with another woman she became distraught. Fleur de Lys becomes enraged when she sees Esmeralda wearing Phoebus’ scarf.

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

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

Then the Feast of Fool happens and Quasimodo is crowned Pope of Fools. Frollo is displeased and Quasimodo is sad. Phoebus and Esmeralda meet in a bar for some romance. Frollo follows them and plays the owner to let him hide in the room where they will be. Before Phoebus and Esmeralda can consummates their love  Frollo bursts in stabs Phoebus. Quasimodo shows up and tries to help but Esmeralda is arrested.

Frollo and Esmeralda, La Esmeralda, Kremlin Ballet Company, Moscow picture image

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

Esmeralda is arrested and Frollo tries to get her out but she rejected him. Fleur de Lys i having a party again. Things are going when Phoebus enters and beg Fleur de Lys to forgive him.

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

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

Esmeralda is about to executed when Quasimodo saves her. They bond but Frollo bursts in and arrests Esmeralda.  Before Esmeralda is executed Fleur de Lys and Phoebus get married.

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

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

Frollo and Quasimodo have a fight and Quasimodo throws Frollo off the cathedral and the scarf falls too. Quasimodo lays down beside Esmeralda to die as the scarf falls on them.

Carlotta Grisi and Jules Perrot, La Esmeralda picture image

Carlotta Grisi and Jules Perrot, La Esmeralda

Well break is over, I can’t hold off anymore on not reviewing another Hunchback version. So here we are instead of some stupid annoying dumb knock-off Disney animation waste of time that makes me dumber as I watch it over and over instead we’re going a classy upscale version of Hunchback, a Ballet. Even though if you have seen The Forsythe Saga, Ballets aren’t cliche as opera because it’s young women dancing. I digress in today society Ballet is more an upscale art form and it something I know nothing about. The closest thing I got to a dance class was tap dance and I got run out the class by the mean students and the incompetent teachers.

Let’s just start with some basics. The ballet is called  La Esmeralda  and it’s done in three acts and five scene. It was originally choreographed by Jules Perrot to music by Cesare Pugni, with sets by William Grieve and costumes by Mme. Copère. It was first presented by the Ballet of her Majesty’s Theatre, London on 9 March 1844, with Carlotta Grisi as Esmeralda, Jules Perrot as Gringoire, Arthur Saint-Leon as Phoebus, Adelaide Frassi as Fleur de Lys, and Antoine Louis Coulon as Quasimodo.

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

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

The first time it was performed in America was in New Jersey in 2004. Most Western ballet companies only perform two Esmeralda-related pieces—La Esmeralda pas de deux and La Esmeralda pas de six—and the Diane and Actéon Pas de Deux, which is actually not excerpted from the ballet, but often mistakenly credited as having been added by Marius Petipa to his 1886 revival of La Esmeralda. So it’s not a very common ballet to American but you do seem the part performed for like ballet competition. It’s a good allegory of Hunchback a piece work that is superficially  known by the general public but the story isn’t understood.

 

The version we’ll look at and review is by the Kremlin Ballet Company of Moscow. Alexandra Timofeeva plays as  Esmeralda. While I could be wrong this production was done in April 2016. Though there were performs in 2014, so it could something they perform periodically. 

I feel very much out of my  depth with this one.