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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.)Follow thehunchblog