Notre Dame de Paris (Ballet) - 1996 - Guerin, LeRiche, Hilaire, Legris – Iconic Arts
Notre Dame de Paris (Ballet) - 1996 - Guerin, LeRiche, Hilaire, Legris (Digital Video)

Notre Dame de Paris (Ballet) - 1996 - Guerin, LeRiche, Hilaire, Legris (Digital Video)

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Title: Notre Dame de Paris
Choreographer: Roland Petit
Date: 1996
Location: Opera National de Paris, Paris, France
Quality: Very Good/Professional

Cast: Isabelle Guerin, Nicolas Le Riche, Laurent Hilaire, Manuel Legris


As a choreographer and a man of the theater Petit is a master of the vivid image. He tells his story obliquely but sharply. Esmeralda is an object of desire for three men -- Quasimodo who loves her because of her kindness, Phoebus who wants her because of greedy lust and Frollo who is attracted and repelled and eventually succumbs to his cold and cruel nature.

As in many of Petits ballets and indeed MacMillians (are Esmerald and Manon really that different?) the woman takes the back seat. Still Guerin imbues Esmeralda with a saucyness and a soft vulnerability both compassionate and resolute. Nicholas Le Riche curved and contorted, gives Quaismodo the necessary disgust with his appearance, subservience to Frollo and devotion to Esmeralda.. At the end his love and loyalty for Esmeralda redeems him but, one wonders, for what? Manuel Legris again plays a thankless role with great skill. Like Jean de Brienne this character is stereotypical yet Legris manages to bring him to life selfish, venal, haughty and full of hubris.

The action here revolves around the men and the character of Frollo is the spark that ignites this ballet. Hilaire is a strong presence and as with Raymonda and Abderam the role is heavy with dramatic tension -- and as with Abderam, Frollo dies in the end.  

Obviously, the ballet was a difficult adaptation of a prominent work. Nevertheless, the performance of the dancers and the skill of the choreographer manage to summarize in an hour and a half hundreds of pages of drama... and words. The music of Maurice Jarre, resolutely modern, lends, adapts, blends with the drama unfolding and the passions unleashed

Laurent Hilaire, then Etoile at the Paris Opera (now assistant director), lends his feline grace to a tortured, selfish, Frollo dying under his respectable appearance, and his lust for the beautiful Esmeralda (Isabelle Guérin), Lust confused wih Love but doomed to silence, Both respectability and desire shown with such violence, that this interpretation generates for the viewer, a clear and distinct impression of terror.

Indeed, there is in Hilaire's Frollo great coldness,. His usuallly mobile face seemingly carved in Alabaster, his gestures emphatic and coldly ascetic. Yet he seems content with his life until the appearance of Phoebus (Manuel Legris) and the love scene between Phoebuis and Esmeralda. The suffering of the priest, his devastating jealousy, sweep him into passionate and forced kisses. It is not clear whetner this is a nightmarish vision invented by the priest, or the Gypsy,

It is undeniable that this Frollo is infinitely well interpreted, Despite shortcuts, and modifications necessary to transfer the complex and lengthy book to the stage in a medium without language, Laurent Hilaire's Frollo exudes the selfish, contemptible, and ultimately complex character created by Victor Hugo

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