Notre-Dame de Paris, Ballet by Roland Petit
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (or Notre-Dame de Paris as the original title goes) is one of French writer Victor Hugo’s major works, and it has left a deep imprint on popular culture since its publication in 1831. The powerful story’s lasting impact inspired composer Maurice Jarre and choreographer Roland Petit to create a ballet around it. And so, Notre-Dame de Paris was born, a dance celebration of Hugo’s literary masterpiece, put into music and movement by two of the author’s supremely talented compatriots. The ballet premiered at the Paris Opéra in 1965 and garnered such continued success that it is still part of major bills today. The Roma Opera Aperta Festival at Baths of Caracalla lets the bells ring once more this season!
Maurice Jarre made his name as a movie composer, supplying the themes and background music to classics like Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Witness and Ghost. Notre-Dame de Paris was, therefore, not a typical project for him. At the same time, it showcased Jarre’s finely tuned sense of marrying music to action and melody to character. His highly pliable musicality was a perfect match for the choreography of Roland Petit, himself an avant-garde artist and innovator. For both men, that ballet was a chance to make a strong first impression at the Paris Opéra, and they took it without excuses.
Notre-Dame de Paris stays faithful to the original text by Victor Hugo. Petit personally extracted the passages that make up the libretto. The dramatic and tragic life of the beautiful, kind-hearted Gypsy girl Esmeralda is at the centre of this whirlpool of events. As many men vie for her affection, some prove pure and sincere in their intentions, while others reveal their corrupt and two-faced nature. It seems like the purest and sincerest bond Esmeralda forges is with Quasimodo, the hunchback from the Notre-Dame cathedral. Will their affection and good nature be enough to protect them from the evils around them? Jarre and Petit take the classic story and give it a breath-taking spin in two piping ballet acts.