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 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.
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 and Quasimodo in Notre Dame
Compared to other musicals in the world, Notre Dame de Paris is VERY minimal for something that is marketed as a spectacle. As far as sets, set pieces and props, there isn’t really much going on in the show.
Clopin and the Court of miracles and the Attack of Notre Dame
The bulk of the set is really just a rock climbing wall that fills in for Notre Dame as well as some pillars that help sell the set as the cathedral when the scene demands. This puts a heavy burden on the lightening to change the scene as well as the mood.
Daniel Lavoie as Frollo and Esmeralda as Helene Segara
I won’t pretend I’m a lighting wizard who knows about filters and gels and what not, my experience in the theater ended in 8th grade and my teachers didn’t teach the students anything of backstage tech or even acting methods but Notre Dame de Paris does some great things with the lighting. It’s moody when it needs to be and warm and bright to communicate the outside. It has some nice patterns of cobblestone and rose windows. I don’t think that is too complex of an effect but it’s a nice touch throughout the show.
Bruno Pelletier as Gringoire with dancer during Le Val d’amour
Then there is the dancing and acrobatics which is probably where most of the marketed “spectacle” lives. The dancing is sort of a mixed bag in terms of conception because without it the show is less a musical and more of a glorified concert but at some points it gets in the way of the show.
Not too often does the dancing do this but at some points it’s overkill, though I will admit that could a side effect of the editing on the DVD. I mean it’s not like I can just go to a place whenever and see the show, it hasn’t been in North American since 2005 and only has been performed in my country for one cast run in 2000 for six months. Am I bitter? Yes!
Quasimodo and Esmeralda
This post has gotten away from me. Anyway the staging, it’s fine for what it is, stylized minimalism.
Frollo and Quasimodo Der Glöckner von Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame has a long film history of being a big grand production and Der Glöckner von Notre Dame of does a good job of capturing a grand scope on stage.
Esmeralda singing Helf den Verstoß'nen Der Glöckner von Notre Dame
The Stage Design uses a lot of tricks to simulate heights and locations. They way the show does this is by using hydraulic to raise portions of the stages and they also use projections to show various locations. The Lighting also work well to capture the mood of the scene by also lets the projections shine. For example, a Rose Window Projection with columns on stage and soft dark lighting to indicate the nave of Notre Dame or Clouds and Stone Carving with bright lights to show the top of the tower of Notre Dame. There are also a lot of moving pieces which add to the spectacle.
Esmeralda saving Phoebus Der Glöckner von Notre Dame
The overall effect looks well integrated and rich and less cheesy than standard sets. You can tell that this where the budget was mostly spent but I think it was worth it The Stage design combine the sets, lighting and projection to give Der Glöckner von Notre Dame a grand majestic style.
Molten Lead Der Glöckner von Notre Dame
Set Design by Heidi Ettinger, Projections by Jerome Sirlin, and Lighting by Rick Fisher
Watch a video the sets in action here
Next Time – Costumes
Esmeralda Dancing Der Glöckner von Notre Dame
So let’s talk about Lighting. Besides the functional side of lighting (i.e. lighting the sets so you can see the sets and actors) there is mood lighting and this is what I’m going to touch on because it’s more fun.
For the most part the movie is pretty tame in the lighting department despite William Dieterle being part the of German Expressionism movement but there is great example of chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro (Italian for light and dark) utilizes the contrast between light and dark for pure dramatic effect. During the scene where Frollo confesses his confused love/lust for Esmeralda. As he pins her against a tree his face is fully illuminated while the back ground is let darker; text-book Chiaroscuro.
Example of Chiaroscuro
Example of Soft Lighting
Example of Hard Lighting
Example Bottom Lighting
There is a moodiness to certain scenes and sometimes characters would get lighting treatment (i.e softening, harding, bottom lighting or chiaroscuro) but I would say that at the time of the film’s release the lighting came off more dramatic. After all Dieterle was part of the German Expressionism movement which was the predecessor to Film Noire ( which by it’s very nature is moody) so there is mood but for a modern viewer the dramatic isn’t as striking except in the confession scene, that was a slap in the face with lighting.
See ya next time – It’s time for Book vs the 1939 version