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.

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda and Martin Giroux as Phoebus Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda and Martin Giroux as Phoebus Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda & Martin Giroux as Phoebus

I have been watching videos of the most recent cast of Notre Dame de Paris and I noticed something about Hiba Tawaji’s portrayal of Esmeralda that was just off. It was something I couldn’t place but it was something I didn’t like. It was like she was trying to do too much but not succeeding. She  just wasn’t coming off as natural but forced.

Just so we’re clear this has nothing to with her as singer or person, this is just in her acting. She is fine as a singer.

Hiba Tawaji singing Bohemienne picture image

Hiba Tawaji singing Bohemienne

The weirdness in her acting was further noticeable when you watch the preview when the cast was announced. She is singing Bohemienne and she was coming off as sweet, happy and natural. From that video she seemed like the perfect Esmeralda. But then you watch the performance and she has a weird expression on her face and she trying to be sultry and playful and doing weird arm movements.

This led me to watch every Bohemienne performance I could find to see what the other Esmeraldas were doing since there is a bit of a disconnect from Segara’s original performance to what other Esmeraldas do with the song. I say this because I’m most familiar with Segara’s version but it’s not the standard anymore.

 

Helene Segara as Esmeralda and Patrick Fiori as Phoebus Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Esmeralda and Phoebus Notre Dame de Paris

Bohemienne, under at least Segara, starts off mysterious and somewhat aloof. Some Esmeraldas maintain some mystery but in other parts of the song.  The reason why Segara’s Esmeralda starts this way was because of changes to the lead-in to the song. In the original Frollo starts off by ordering Phoebus to arrest the refugees in which he immediately  runs into Esmeralda and then she starts her song after he asks her who she is. There is a threat here with Phoebus, as he was starts pursuing her and then tries to flirt. She is aloof because she on her guard.

 

In subsequent versions Phoebus gets his orders, there is a scene shift and then runs into Esmeralda already dancing for the people. She is unaware of Phoebus’ orders. So the song is already upbeat and happy at the start.

 

Lola Ponce as Esmeralda Italian Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Lola Ponce as Esmeralda Italian Notre Dame de Paris

Most Esmeraldas perform Bohemienne in a happy upbeat playful manner. Dancing varies but most try to move in a dancing like fashion whether or not it looks natural. Probably the best Esmeralda at conveying the spirit of a dancer and  a playful flirtatious attitude is the Italian cast Original Esmeralda, Lola Ponce. She is very natural in this performance. However the trade-off is her singing suffers. While it’s not bad she does get breathy and out breath in places but you can forgive it as she commits.

Many Italian Esmeraldas follow Ponce’s example in the playful flirty persona. Some try and focus more on singing so they don’t commit as fully. Some are just less natural in their movements and you can see them aiming to hit the next mark.

Other Esmeraldas it’s  just hard to tell if their happy and succeeding in the choreography because the quality of footage is bad.            

 

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda & Jay as Clopin Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Hiba Tawaji as Esmeralda & Jay as Clopin

   

So it’s a question of choreography vs singing vs an Esmeralda who is natural with their movements.  It would be unfair to put the blame solely on Tawaji as the choreography is weird at times. Like when she gesturing out towards the audience, why? Or maybe she’s just not super comfortable trying to move sensually while trying to be playful, effervescent and flirtatious while maintaining good vocals. It’s a tall order if not impossible   But then you watch Tawaji perform other songs in the show there is still that awkwardness with her movements so I don’t know. She could not be a very adept actress, great singer and not good in the acting department, she wouldn’t be the first singer not great at acting.

However there seems to be awkwardness with Daniel Lavoie’s movements in this version opposed to his original performance,  so I really don’t know what to think. Could be the director? Or maybe this all better live and the videos are not doing the performances any justice?

The point is in the case of Bohemienne  there is no right way to perform the song. The performer can be more playful, aloof,  flirtatious, sensual, wistful, youthful etc. However it does seem like sometimes the minor choreography can get in the way of the performer’s natural movements and that is when an Esmeralda can look mechanical or awkward and that is something an Esmeralda should never 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)

Last week I randomly listened to 20 songs on my iTunes so see what the probability was of getting either a Hunchback song or a song sung but an artist affiliated with a Hunchback version. The result were one in five or 20%.  This is the second test. Nothing have changed I have added no new songs.

So instead of me listing all the songs I got I’m only going to mention which Hunchback songs were played because no care about my music.

Test 2 had disappointing results as only one Hunchback song was played and it should barley count. The song was Visite de Frollo Esmeralda from Notre Dame de Paris  but it was only the Je t’aime part. A while ago I wanted it for a ringtone. Turns out I used the opening of La Sociere more.

So the result was 1 in 20. or 5%. Not as good as last time. Went down 15% from test one.

     

Stéphanie Schlesser played Fleur de Lys in 2014-2015 French Language Asian Tour. She does play and sing the role very well. She also played Juliette in the South Korean Tour in 2015  of Romeo & Juliette which is one of France other reloading musicals.

I went to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Ma a few weeks ago and at the Wear Art exhibit I saw THIS;

Gothic Habit by Lynn Christiansen 2014 picture image

Gothic Habit by Lynn Christiansen 2014

This is a wearable garment made by Lynn Christiansen. It’s entitled Gothic Habit. That is a perfect name for this piece.  Christiansen made it in 2014 and it’s made from felt that was laser etch. Christiansen

Christiansen was inspired by the shapes, rising arches, stone and the raw beauty of cathedrals. Christiansen felt that entering a can be a religious experience and then she wondered if the reversal was true. If where the structure produce the same religious feeling.

Lynn Christiansen’s World of WearableArt

These are Notre Dame de Paris Style Dolls made using Divine Dolls Dark Mage Creator.

Esmeralda

Notre Dame de Paris Style Esmeralda composed using Divine Doll Dark Mage Creator picture image

Notre Dame de Paris Style Esmeralda composed using Divine Doll Dark Mage Creator

Fleur de Lys

Notre Dame de Paris Style Fleur de Lys composed using Divine Doll Dark Mage Creator picture image

Notre Dame de Paris Style Fleur de Lys composed using Divine Doll Dark Mage Creator

Personally I liked the idea of the costume concept more than the show’s actually costumes. I do like that the newest version updated the costumes but I think they could be tweaked and reimagined a bit more. Notre Dame de Paris was never Phantom, I don’t think people are going to feel betrayed if the costumes are not the some from production to production.

I do wonder how different the show would be with different more time-appropriate costumes. Like Fleur de Lys in ornate gowns and the like. Or Esmeralda in maybe brightly colored pattern fabrics that have a hint of belly dancing to them.

Sorry for yet another video, personal life and stuff.

Just a few reactions of this video;
– I really do want to analyze Fleur-de-Lys’ costume. I haven’t sat down and REALLY thought about but I’m not sure how to feel about. Of course the costume I REALLY want to discuss is Frollo’s, I have some words for that one.

– I really like this Fleur-de-Lys, she has a lovely clear voice that is the perfect tonal foil to Tawaji’s voice,  Alyzée Lalande gets a solid A from me.

– Not sold on Martin Giroux as  Phoebus. Granted I haven’t gone through this cast with a fine tooth comb to really assess their performances but he just seems from this vid to be on the generic side. To be fair few Phoebus performer stand out so it could be the role.