La Esmeralda (ballet)

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Ballets and revivals of Marius Petipa
Marius Petipa -1898.JPG

*Paquita (1847, *1881)
*Le Corsaire (1858, 1863, 1868, 1885, 1899)
The Pharaoh's Daughter (1862, *1885, *1898)
Le Roi Candaule (1868, *1891, *1903)
Don Quixote (1869, *1871)
La Bayadère (1877, *1900)
*Giselle (1884, 1899, 1903)
*Coppélia (1884)
*La fille mal gardée (1885)
*La Esmeralda (1886, 1899)
The Talisman (1889)
The Sleeping Beauty (1890)
The Nutcracker (1892)
Cinderella (1893)
Le Réveil de Flore (1894)
*Swan Lake (1895)
*The Little Humpbacked Horse (1895)
Raymonda (1898)
The Seasons (1900)
Harlequinade (1900)

* revival

La Esmeralda is a ballet in 3 acts, 5 scenes, inspired by Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo, originally choreographed by Jules Perrot; with music by Cesare Pugni and design by William Grieve (scenery), D. Sloman (machinery), Mme. Copere (costumes).

It was first presented by the Ballet of her Majesty's Theatre, London on March 9, 1844 with the Ballerina Carlotta Grisi as Esmeralda, Jules Perrot as Gringoire, Arthur Saint-Leon as Phoebus, Adelaide Frassi as Fleur de Lys, and Antoine Louis Coulon as Quasimodo.

Today the ballet is presented in its full-length form only in certain parts of the world; Russia; parts of Eastern Europe; and New Jersey, United States. New Jersey Ballet introduced the full-length version for the first time in the United States in 2004.[1] Outside of Russia, Eastern Europe and New Jersey only excerpts are given - the La Esmeralda Pas de Deux and the Pas de Six, but mostly the Diane and Actéon Pas de Deux is given, which in all actuality is not originally from the ballet (it is often miscredited as having been added by Petipa to his 1886 revival of La Esmeralda).

A more recent restaging of the ballet saw Roland Petit at the helm Choreographing for the Paris Opera in 1965.


The beautiful gypsy girl, Esmeralda marries the poet, Pierre Gringoire in a gypsy wedding to save him from death in the hands of the gypsy king. The groom is smitten with his new bride, but Esmeralda makes it clear that the marriage is strictly one of convenience. However, Gringoire is not the only one with eyes for Esmeralda - the corrupt archdeacon, Claude Frollo holds a dangerous obsession for the girl, despite his position in the church, and orders his deformed henchman, Quasimodo to abduct her. When Quasimodo attacks Esmeralda in the street, she is rescued by the handsome Captain Phoebus and falls in love with him, but asks for Quasimodo to be spared. The hunchback is deeply touched by her kindness and Phoebus gives her a scarf that was given to him by his fiancée, Fleur de Lys.

The next day, Fleur de Lys and her mother hold a grand celebration for her engagement to Phoebus, who is distracted by thoughts of Esmeralda. Esmeralda arrives to dance at the celebrations, but is left heartbroken when she sees that Fleur de Lys' fiancé is none other than her beloved Phoebus. Fleur de Lys notices that Esmeralda is wearing the scarf that she gave to Phoebus and realising that he has fallen in love with another, angrily calls off the engagement. Phoebus leaves with Esmeralda. Alone in an inn, the two declare their love for each other, unaware that Frollo is also there eavesdropping on them. Taking a dagger that he stole from Esmeralda's room, Frollo sneaks up behind the lovers and stabs Phoebus, who falls unconscious to the ground. Frollo calls for the authorities, shows them the body of Phoebus and the dagger that was used to stab him, which is identified as Esmeralda's. The poor girl is taken away and sentenced to death.

At dawn the following morning, the Feast of Fools is under way and Esmeralda is due to be hanged for the murder of Phoebus. Her friends and Gringoire are all present and bid her farewell, while Frollo watches in triumph. However, just as Esmeralda is led to the gallows, Phoebus arrives alive and well, having survived and recovered from the stabbing. He reveals the true culprit to be Frollo and announces that Esmeralda is innocent of any crime. Frollo takes a dagger and attempts to do away with them, but Quasimodo wrests the dagger from his master and stabs him to death. Esmeralda and Phoebus are happily reunited.

Fanny Cerrito in the title role of the Pugni/Perrot La Esmeralda, London, circa 1844.

Important revivals[edit]

  • Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet in 4 acts and 5 scenes. Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, 21 November 1899. Revived especially for the Prima Ballerina Assoluta Mathilde Kschessinskaya.
  • Pyotr Gusev for the Kirov Ballet in 3 acts. Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Leningrad, 1949.


  1. ^ DANCE REVIEW; A Teeming Action Ballet With a Classical Sheen, New York Times, April 24, 2004 - accessed January 12, 2011

See also[edit]