Notre-Dame De Paris – ballet, Blu-ray (2014)

Notre-Dame De Paris – ballet, Blu-ray (2014)

Based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Dancers: Ballet Co. of Teatro Alla Scala; Esmeralda: Natalia Osipova; Quasimodo: Robert Bolle; Frollo: Mick Zeni
Choreography & libretto: Roland Petit
Orch. of the Teatro Alla Scala/ Paul Connelly
Music: Maurice Jarre
Director: Patrizia Carmine
Studio: Opus Arte OA BD7146 D [Distr. by Naxos] (6/24/14)
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080i HD color
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1, PCM 2.0
All regions
Extras: Cast Gallery, “Behind the Curtain” Interviews
Length: 95 minutes
Rating: ****1/2

Roland Petit’s cabaret-style version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame story was premiered in 1965, with chic costuming by Yves Saint Laurent. It’s been a modern ballet hit ever since, and since Petit died in 2011, this new production with current ballet stars is a fitting tribute, and very well done. It is beautifully danced, staged and filmed, with some fascinating overhead camera shots. The score by Maurice Jarre is really similar to one of his great film scores and a nice alternative to the usual ballet score. The orchestra is unusually large, with many harps and percussion, and the music is well reproduced on the DTS surround track.

Osipova is perfect in her role as Esmeralda and quite a different and sexier creature than the Esmeralda in  Lon Chaney’s 1923 silent film, which we recently reviewed. She is most striking in her rapid leg and arm movements, and does many of the amazing jumps for which she is acclaimed.

Bolle speaks in the extras about his difficulties dancing the part of Quasimodo since first of all he had been the handsome lead price and such in other ballets, and secondly because his costume and makeup really don’t fit the hunchback theme. For example, he has no hunchback. His motions have to convey his disabilities, and he does a fairly good job of it. During a pas de deux with Esmeralda he does lose some of his strange arms-in-the-air postures, but that illustrates his sort of rebirth realizing that someone actually loves and appreciates him for a change.

The note booklet had such tiny type that even with a magnifying glass I could barely read them, and there were several scenes described in the scenario which I failed to see even faint suggestions of in the staging, such as the attack of the soldiers and crowd on the cathedral. Nevertheless, the story and the tragic tale of Quasimodo and Esmeralda comes across well. I don’t believe Esmeralda died in the Chaney film, but that ending seemed to work better for the ballet.

—John Sunier

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