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.   

I feel bad posting another Notre Dame de Paris video off of youtube but life hasn’t been too great this past week. Though, I  have been wanting to hear Tawaji’s rendition of Bohemienne, so this pretty off the cuff.

#1- I think I really do like the changes to the costume. Indeed it’s way pretty in motion. I also like the slits up on those overlays on the back of the costume, it offer yet more movement. Future versions don’t mess it up too much, I still haven’t forgiven the evolution of the damn slit Esmeralda had for like a decade.

#2 – Tawaji is really perfectly cast. Someday I do want to a list the top 10 or so Esmeralda from Notre Dame de Paris. I won’t pretend that I have seen videos or MP3s or all them BUT  I have heard/seen bunches . Maybe 80% but that is probably a high guess.

#3- While YES, Tawaji is a great Esmeralda, I do find her arm movement a little stiff/awkward. It’s like she isn’t quite sold of the motions or is super unsure what to with her arms. Which is a little weird because she is a great dancer otherwise. Pesky arms.

#4 – While I do appreciate this recording, I really do, I did laugh when Tawaji runs  up stage on the First Bohemienne to do that arm thing you see ALL Esmeralda do, which I find to be the most mechanical of her motions and due to the angle of the video Esmeralda is TOTALLY blocked by Clopin. I can’t if Tawaji falls prey to mechanicalness that plagues all Esmeraldas or somehow makes it work for her.  Just funny, not complaining.

But if the production wants to send me a recording of the show to review, please do! I will review it with all the praising as you want. I know they won’t.

Bohémienne

Esmeralda Helene Segara Bohemienne Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Esmeralda

Bohémienne is one of the few upbeat songs in Notre Dame de Paris. Pending on the cast you’re watching the number can be more upbeat, as most Esmeraldas do have dance choreography. The trouble with some Esmeraldas, is that even though they are dancing, the choreography can look REALLY mechanical. Some Esmeraldas can pull it all like Lola Ponce of the original Italian cast and Baba of the Korean version but most Esmeraldas it like arms up, run back. arms up again and now twirl. Helene Segara at least looks natural in her movements regardless whether not she is dancing, she isn’t but there are a few little steps in there.

Bohémienne tells us a little bit of Esmeralda’s origins and out look on life. She’s a wander and enjoys the unknown. She is also a dreamer and really dreams of going to Spain. Despite the upbeat nature of the number there is this hint of bittersweetness. The combination of tones gives this songs a nice complexity and interest.

It’s a really great introduction for Esmeralda and fun number.

Esmeralda Tu Sais, (Esmeralda, You Know,)

tu sais Esmeralda and Clopin Helene Segara Luc Mervil Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Esmeralda and Clopin

I once made a Top Ten Worst Songs of Notre Dame de Paris list and this song was there, at number three no less. This songs works to tells us more on Esmeralda’s backstory with regards to Clopin. Basically he raised her when she mother died. In the song he warns her about guys and his own rising interest in her.

Here the thing about Esmeralda tu sais and why it made my list, it’s REALLY boring. The melody, orchestration, tone are like valium. It doesn’t highlight the singer it anyway and makes Clopin sound like he is droning. In other cast versions, they tried to fix the song by making it a duet with Clopin and Esmeralda which is nice and Clopin gets more angry about the world but it didn’t really help anything, it’s still dull a rusty nail.

The ONLY thing I can give the song is showcasing Clopin’s gentler side but I mean they could have written a better melody, it’s just one of the weaker songs in the show.

Ces diamants-là (These Diamonds)

Julie Zenatti as Fleur-de-Lys with Patrick Fiori as Phoebus, Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Julie Zenatti as Fleur-de-Lys with Patrick Fiori as Phoebus, Notre Dame de Paris

Ces diamants-là is Fleur-de-Lys introduction song. Just so we’re all clear, Fleur-de-Lys is Phoebus’ Fiancee. Isn’t it great that Notre Dame de Paris introduces Fleur-de-Lys before Quasimodo? I think it is!

Ces diamants-là tells us about Fleur-de-Lys and Phoebus’ relationship. Fleur-de-Lys who is young in this version but is wise to Phoebus’ playboy ways in that she says even if his romantic lines are lies she doesn’t care. She is smitten with him and Phoebus whether or not is he is lying or sincere does seem to be interested in marring her.

The song is sweet but there is more at play. They way they circle around each other and pull way speaks to a power dynamic and really way they do it speaks to Fleur-de-Lys having more control than Phoebus. This could be because Phoebus is a slut who can’t help himself or that it’s Fleur-de-Lys who has the monetary upper-hand like she does in the book. The melody while it’s quite pretty seems a little off, like almost a little diabolical, like a little foreboding with those drums. In that sense it’s the perfect depiction of Phoebus and Fleur-de-Lys‘ characters in the musical.

Get the whole GLORIOUS ALBUM HERE

 

Helene Segara singing Ave Maria Paien in Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Helene Segara singing Ave Maria Paien in Notre Dame de Paris

Esmeralda’s personality really comes down to what version of Notre Dame de Paris
you’re watching. In all likelihood I will talk about how the role as changed over time and the other actresses but for this post we’re just going to focus on the original.

Esmeralda Helene Segara Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Esmeralda

Now if you want to get super really technical, and you know I do, the Original Esmeralda and her personality sort of doesn’t exist. Esmeralda was originally going to play by Noa, an Israeli-American singer but she dropped out but she did record on the concept album. So we don’t know how Noa would have played the role. After Noa dropped out Helene Segara took over the role. Segara is a French singer and she had originally audition for the part. So this post is going for Segara’s version of Esmeralda.

Esmeralda Helene Segara Bohemienne Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Esmeralda

Without getting too much in Segara’s voice (because later posts), Segara uses a low, somewhat rough, sultry tone to her voice which she uses for the character. This gives Esmeralda a mysterious quality as she doesn’t know her what her life will bring and she comfortable in that. She’s also confident. She doesn’t seem afraid of Frollo as she just spits at him and tries to call him out nor that wide-eye about Phoebus when she first meets him but does get dreamy about him after he wants to meet up with her again. She does confess to being afraid of Quasimodo but she does get over that quickly and Esmeralda and Quasimodo do form a strong friendship as Quasimodo offers her protection.

Esmeralda praying Esmeralda Helene Segara Ave Maria Paien Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Esmeralda praying

One of the core facets of her personality is that she doesn’t like boarders or distinctions of race, nationality or religion. She also doesn’t have must faith in authority. This speaks to her upbringing of traveling from place to place but it gives Esmeralda a new dimension to her personality.

Esmeralda kind of Dancing Esmeralda Helene Segara Bohemienne Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Esmeralda kind of Dancing

There is a trade off to Segara’s Esmeralda that people are quick to mention. Esmeralda in this version isn’t really a dancer, outside of a few twirls Segara doesn’t really do many dance steps. Also Esmeralda’s winsome innocent is not really found in this version. Instead she comes off as more mature.

I will be first to say that I have demised other Esmeraldas for this but with this Esmeralda I’m more forgiving. Why? Favoritism, I just like this musical but seriously it’s because it’s a stage show, they are singing live. I prefer a singer for a singing role. As much as dancing means to her character I don’t find dancing to be the end all be end all of a good Esmeralda plus in the book, her singing was more charming than her dancing.

Would it have been better if she had tried to dance more? Maybe but not so much at the cost of the singing or a natural moment to character. I have seen pictures where it looks like Segara is dancing a bit more and maybe it was for the cameras that she isn’t, I don’t know, just a guess, the picture are in the booklet that comes with the DVD. Though there is A LOT of lines that are about her dancing, like a ton so it’s a legit issue that she doesn’t really dance.

Esmeralda Helene Segara Belle Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Esmeralda

Aside from Esmeralda’s philosophies there isn’t must too new about her in this version other than her playing up her mystery more. I would say it a good solid version of the character for a musical. She reminds me of a combination of the 1939 Esmeralda and the 1956 version.

Next Time Frollo

Daniel Lavoie as Frollo Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Daniel Lavoie as Frollo Notre Dame de Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just so people are clear, I’m covering the characters as they are listed on the back of the DVD. And I’m sorry for the pictures, my rip of the DVD is not that great which makes me sad as I had a better rip of it when I made a little music video but I lost it or deleted it or something.

What the hell is happening to Esmeralda’s costume? It just keeps getting shorter and shorter. It just looks awkward at that length. What is weird is Myriam Brousseau’s costume has a straight hemline and is shorter than most Esmeralda costumes and looks awkward too. No like.

The sound quality is really bad so I don’t want to blame Bedard but I can’t help but feel she is not one my favorite Esmeraldas, she just seems mechanical in her movements but at least she is acting happy.

 

This is Myriam Brousseau singing Bohemienne in English during a radio interview for promoting the Asian Tour. She was the Alternate of Esmeralda and Fleur de Lys in the Asian Tour and the World Tour of Notre Dame de Paris.

I rather like her rendition of Bohemienne. She has a really good control of voice. It probably one the better English version of this song.

I’ve studied Japanese and while I’m by no means fluent I think this is a decent rendering of the song into Japanese. I like that for the word for “fate” is Sadame  which man fate but it has a sad connotation to it. Not sure what I think of the singing though.

I one time timed to tried to translate Belle into Japanese but not to fit the measure. I do think it would be cool if Notre Dame played to Japan, it’s played a lot in Asia but not in Japan.

 

This video from the 10th anniversary Italian cast of Notre Dame de Paris from April 13th, 2012. I beilieve it’s Federica Callori as Esmeralda singing Zingara (Bohemienne).

I’m just going to say this I find a lot of casts of Notre Dame de Paris to have rather mechanical performances and it’s very noticeable in this song with Esmeralda.  You can see it in run toward up stage at 0:58 and her interaction with other people. It’s not just Callori many of the Esmeraldas don’t have that ease of motion that Esmeralda should have.

Helene Segara performing Bohemienne as Esmeralda Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Helene Segara performing Bohemienne as Esmeralda Notre Dame de Paris

Say what you want about Helene Segara’s over-all performance, at least her movements felt natural and not forced.

 

Lola Ponce as Esmeralda Original Italian Cast Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Lola Ponce as Esmeralda Original Italian Cast Notre Dame de Paris

Lola Ponce was probadly one the best Esmeraldas to combine the choreography and her own natural moments.

What do you think? Do you find some of the Esmeralda’s moments mechanical and overly pre-planned, I mean I know they are but it shouldn’t feel that way. Or do you disagree with me and find the moments natural and fluid? Or do you have an opinion of Callori’s performance?  Your thoughts/opinions are very welcome ^_^

Here are Two New Video featuring the Asian Tour Cast. The First is an Interview with Matt Laurent (Quasimodo)  and Candice Parise (Esmeralda)

The Second is clips from the Show with Features; The Age of the Cathedral, The Refugees,  Belle, My Home in the Sky, Bohemienne, The King of Fools, Kidnap Attempt, Torn Apart,  and The Word Phoebus

Videos are from the Beijing, China performances. Enjoy

(Personal Fun Fact – I went to China in June 2007 for two weeks with my college, about four hours after landing I broke my foot. X-rays make the best souvenirs )

The Original  Troupe of Notre Dame de Paris singing at Bercy Concert picture image

The Original Troupe of Notre Dame de Paris singing at Bercy

In the second week of December 2011 we (the world) were treated to four performances of Notre Dame de Paris by the original  cast/troupe in both Paris and in Kiev. The troupe sang the show in a concert style with a full orchestra and a choir. This marks the second year the troupe has done this but the first year they performed in Paris together since 1999. There were talks of a reunion of the original troupe getting together to perform Notre Dame de Paris since May 2009 when Helene Segara mentioned the prospect in an interview (Click HERE to read that interview).

Notre Dame de Paris Concert Poster image picture

Notre Dame de Paris Concert Poster

So  why did it take them so long reunite? Well it actually it’s the some reason why they have been doing the concerts. Notre Dame de Paris made a lot of the original cast’s careers and they enjoyed a fair amount  of popularity from the show. However over the years the cast’s popularity has been waning. Let’s just look at Helene Segara’s music career. When Segara recorded her studio album “Coeur De Verre” in 1996 it peaked number 6 in France. In 1998 she was cast as Esmeralda, in 2000 she released her second studio album “Au Nom D’une Femme” which peaked at number 2 in France. Her album “Humaine” top at number 1 as well as “Quand L’Eternité” in 2006. However her 2009 album “Mon Pays C’Est La Terre” peaked at 19. Quite a fall, and it’s not like the album is terrible, I like it, I even used one of the songs in an Anime Music Video to Romeo X Juliet (click to watch). In 2010, Segara and the rest of the Original Troupe performed the show in a concert format in Kiev, St Petersburg and  Moscow. Her latest album “Parmi La Foule” which was released in 2011 peaked at 9 on the French chart.  Coincidence, No, I think the concerts are a way for the Original Troupe to get back in the spotlight. That is not to say that I think the concerts are some sort of ploy to make money. I think the people invovled with them love the show and the music and the original troupe seem to respect the fans and like performing the show.

 

Helene Segara and Garou on Stage in Kiev picture image

Helene Segara and Garou on Stage in Kiev

Now how were the concerts this year? I can’t give a full answer as I couldn’t go to either Paris or Kiev and concerts are one those things that you need to be there for. And watching Youtube videos shot/uploaded by fans who were there is not fair to base an assessment on. However watching videos, I must admit I was a little disappointed. It seems to me that with the Kiev performance the Troupe were pushed into a corner of the stage (by the harp) and  just  stayed in that corner or the didn’t really move around the stage much. The weird part is that you can tell they want to act the show, Daniel Lavoie (Frollo) does his Frollo posture with stiff hands. It’s a little forgivable because watching the video the Kiev Stage looks small and there is a full orchestra on stage.

Helene Segara performing Bohemienne at Bercy Concert  picture image

Helene Segara performing Bohemienne at Bercy Concert

Which brings me another problem I had, the full orchestra. Yes, orchestras are lovely and provide great energy, but I really don’t care for the arrangement of the songs. I hate to use Segara as an example again but let’s  look at Bohemienne as an example. Bohemienne is one of the few upbeat songs in the show. The orchestra at the Bercy concert gave Bohemienne a slower tempo and upped the Middle-Eastren vibe, which I liked (even if it only makes sense because Helene Segara is part Armenian). But  the slower pace just makes it seem melancholy, the only thing to saves it is Segara puts the energy back into the song with her performance, even if she is not dancing.

 

Garou, Daniel Lavoie and Patrick Fiori performing Belle in Bercy picture image

Garou, Daniel Lavoie and Patrick Fiori performing Belle in Bercy

Also one more thing, and this a personal thing, I have an issue with Belle (Staging). The point of Belle is that three men sing about a woman but when the Trio sings it where is the “Belle”, why isn’t Segera on stage? She was on stage last year for the concerts. I mean it’s one thing if the trio is performing on a TV show and Segara is not there but she’s there no excuse, she should have been on stage in some capacity.

 

Notre Dame de Paris Original Troupe Promo Picture  Image

Notre Dame de Paris Original Troupe Promo Picture

There are other things I can harp on but I confess that I can forgive my disappoints, because had I been there the thrill of it would eclipsed my critical mind and I would have been lost in the spectacle of it all. It’s very easy to be critical when you’re not there. I do think it wonderful that the Original Troupe has done these concerts. I do hope they will perform the concerts on the other side of the Pond as half the cast are Canadians. I know there were rumors about it last summer but Garou was in Cirque Du Soleil in New York, so that didn’t happen. So we’ll if the Troupe does more concerts in the future, I hope they do.

Patrick Fiori and Julie Zenatti performing Notre Dame de Paris in Bercy picture image

Patrick Fiori and Julie Zenatti performing Notre Dame de Paris in Bercy

Bruno Pelletier performing Notre Dame de Paris in Bercy picture image

Bruno Pelletier performing Notre Dame de Paris in Bercy

Luck Mervil performing Notre Dame de Paris in Bercy picture image

Luck Mervil performing Notre Dame de Paris in Bercy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garou and Helene Segara performing Ma Maison c'est Ta Maison in Kiev picture image

Garou and Helene Segara performing Ma Maison c’est Ta Maison in Kiev

Julie Zenatti performing Notre Dame de Paris in Bercy picture image

Julie Zenatti performing Notre Dame de Paris in Bercy

Garou and Patrick Fiori giving Daniel Lavoie a Kiss in Bercy during the Notre Dame de Paris Concert picture image

Garou and Patrick Fiori giving Daniel Lavoie a Kiss in Bercy during the Notre Dame de Paris Concert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Helene Segara performing Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Helene Segara performing Notre Dame de Paris