Notre-Dame de Paris (musical)

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This article is about the French musical. For the Disney-produced German musical, see Der Glöckner von Notre Dame.
Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris - English version.jpg
Notre-Dame de Paris - English version (CD cover)
Music Richard Cocciante
Lyrics Luc Plamondon in French
Will Jennings in English
Book Luc Plamondon
Basis Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Productions 1998 Paris
1999 International Tour
2000 Las Vegas
2000 West End
2001 Paris
2001 Barcelona
2002 Italy Tour
2002 Moscow
2005 International Tour
2005 Montreal
2007 South Korea Tour
2010 Antwerp
2010 Concert Tour
2011 Italy Tour
2012 International Tour
2013 Seoul
2014 International Tour
Awards Guinness World Records

Notre-Dame de Paris is a sung-through French and Québécois musical which debuted on 16 September 1998 in Paris. It is based upon the novel Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) by the French novelist Victor Hugo. The music was composed by Riccardo Cocciante (also known as Richard Cocciante) and the lyrics are by Luc Plamondon.

Since its debut, it has been professionally played in Belgium, Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States, and has been translated into six languages (English, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Korean and Flemish). A shorter version in English was performed in 2000 in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA) and a full-length London production, also in English, ran for seventeen months. Several songs from the show, such as "Vivre", "Belle" and "Le temps des cathédrales", have been released as singles with a huge success in French speaking countries.

Notre-Dame de Paris, according to the Guinness Book of Records, had the most successful first year of any musical ever. The score has been recorded at least seven times to date (2007): the original French concept album, which featured Israeli singer Achinoam Nini (aka Noa) as Esmeralda was followed by a live, complete recording of the original Paris cast. A complete recording of the score in Italian was made, along with a single disc of highlights in Spanish from the Barcelona production. The original London cast album featured several of the original Paris stars, but only preserved a fraction of the score in English.

Casts[edit]

Original Paris cast[edit]

Original North American cast[edit]

Original Canadian cast[edit]

Original London cast[edit]

Female artists who later assumed the role of Esmeralda include American vocalist Patti Russo and Australian singer Dannii Minogue.

Original Paris Mogador cast[edit]

Original Spanish cast[edit]

Original Italian cast[edit]

Original Russian cast[edit]

Original Korean cast[edit]

Original Flemish cast[edit]

Musical numbers[edit]

Synopsis[edit]

Act I[edit]

The story is set in Paris in the year 1482. The poet Gringoire, who throughout the story acts not only as a participant but also as a sort of commentator, enters to set the scene for the story; he relates how Man has written his history in the building of the cathedrals ("Le Temps des Cathédrales").

The homeless and refugees, led by Clopin, swarm before the entrance to the Cathedral of Notre Dame begging for help and sanctuary ("Les Sans-Papiers"). Frollo, the Archdeacon of Notre Dame, orders Phoebus, the Captain of the Royal Archers, to have his men disperse the crowd. As his men are driving off the refugees, Phoebus catches sight of the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda (in later productions, the scene changes to have him see her while she is dancing before Notre Dame) and seems entranced by her. Esmeralda tells him (and the audience) about herself, her life as a gypsy and her dreams ("Bohémienne"). Instead of arresting her, Phoebus leaves her alone.

Clopin, who has watched over Esmeralda since she was eight years old after the death of her parents, tells her that she is no longer a child and that she has reached the age where she will discover love ("Esmeralda, Tu Sais"). He warns her to be extremely careful, since not all men are to be trusted.

In the next number, the audience is introduced to the nobly-born and beautiful yet childlike Fleur-de-Lys, to whom Phoebus is engaged to be married ("Ces Diamants-La"); her love for him is like that of Juliet for Romeo.

Now begins the wild and coloured Feast of Fools, presided over by Gringoire ("La Fete des Fous"), the climax of which is the choosing of the King of Fools from among the group of people who can make the ugliest face; the King will be crowned by Esmeralda. Hiding in the shadows is a monstrous figure who is dragged out into the light; it is the bell-ringer of Notre Dame, the hunchbacked and facially deformed Quasimodo. By unanimous decision, Quasimodo is chosen and crowned as the King of Fools, but he knows that for all the power he has this one day nothing can make a woman (especially Esmeralda) care for him ("Le Pape des Fous").

Frollo breaks up the festivities and orders Quasimodo to kidnap Esmeralda and bring her to him that night so that she can be imprisoned as a sorceress and a violator of public decency ("La Sorciere"). Quasimodo, who is devoted to Frollo for raising and educating him after he had been abandoned as a baby ("L'Enfant Trouve"), says he will obey.

Night falls on Paris with its dark and hidden secrets commented on by Gringoire ("Les Portes de Paris"). Quasimodo stalks Esmeralda through the dark streets and is about to seize her when Phoebus and his guards arrive and arrest Quasimodo. Phoebus introduces himself to Esmeralda. He makes a date for a rendezvous with her the next night at the Cabaret du Val d'Amour. Phoebus and his men take Quasimodo away and Esmeralda darts off into the darkness ("Tentative d'enlèvement").

At the Court of Miracles, the haven for all of the outcasts of Paris, Clopin presides over a wild revel, remarking that all are truly equal here no matter their race, religion, skin color or criminal background ("La Cour des Miracles"). Gringoire, who has wandered in accidentally, is seized and Clopin tells him that he will be hanged for his trespassing - unless one of the women will agree to marry him. Esmeralda who has arrived during this, agrees to marry Gringoire (in name only) and Clopin, as King of the Outcasts, unites them and they join in the wild revelry.

Later, when Gringoire and Esmeralda are left alone, he introduces himself to her as "the Prince of the Streets of Paris" and assures her that while he is not a "ladies' man" ("un homme a femmes" in the original French), he would be glad if she would be his Muse and inspiration. Since Gringoire is educated, Esmeralda asks him what the word "Phoebus" means; he tells her that in Latin it means "the sun" or "sun god". Esmeralda muses on the word as it romantically relates to the man Phoebus ("Beau Comme le Soleil"); she is joined on stage by Fleur-de-Lys, who also muses on Phoebus (although she seems to be more apprehensive about him), but both believe that Phoebus will love them forever.

Phoebus himself is under no apprehensions about what kind of man he is - he wants both women, one as a wife and one as a temporary mistress ("Déchiré").

The next day, Frollo summons Gringoire to Notre Dame and questions him about Esmeralda, forbidding him to touch her. Gringoire changes the conversation by asking about a strange inscription in Greek on the wall of the Gallerie des Rois in Notre Dame, the word "Ananké". Frollo tells him that "Ananké" means "Fate" in Greek. They watch as Quasimodo is dragged on stage bound on The Great Wheel as sentence for his attempted kidnapping of Esmeralda ("Anarkia").

Quasimodo endures his punishment, but cries out for water ("A Boire"), a plea that is ignored by everyone. Suddenly Esmeralda appears and gives him a drink of water from her cup, an act of kindness that deeply touches the poor hunchback. He is then released from the Wheel, and he, Frollo and Phoebus sing about their different feelings for Esmeralda ("Belle"): Quasimodo about his growing feelings of tenderness for her, Frollo about his growing fascination for her, and Phoebus (watched jealously by Fleur-de-Lys) about his wish for an affair with her before he marries Fleur-de-Lys.

Quasimodo leads Esmeralda into Notre Dame and tells her how the cathedral has been his home and sanctuary, and now it can be hers whenever she needs one ("Ma Maison, c’est Ta Maison"). In spite of her initial fear of this strange, deformed man, Esmeralda is touched by his gentleness and finds herself warming towards Quasimodo. Left alone, Esmeralda, who has never prayed before, prays to the Virgin Mary ("Ave Maria Païen"). Frollo, secretly spying on her, realizes that his lust for her will destroy him but knows that he cannot resist ... and does not really want to ("Tu vas me détruire").

That night, Phoebus is on his way to the Cabaret du Val d’Amour for his rendezvous with Esmeralda when he realizes he is being stalked by a shadowy figure. The figure (Frollo in disguise) warns him to go no further ("L’Ombre"), but Phoebus refuses to heed the threat and continues on his way.

At the Cabaret du Val d’Amour, Gringoire (who seems to be a regular customer) remarks how everyone, no matter the race, creed or color, comes here for a good time of one kind or another ... for a very low price ("Le Val d’Amour"). Phoebus arrives (he seems to be a regular customer here too) and meets Esmeralda in a private room ("La Volupté"). They embrace and are about to make love when Frollo rushes in and stabs Phoebus with Esmeralda’s knife (which she had placed on the floor earlier). Esmeralda collapses over Phoebus’ body, Frollo makes his escape and Gringoire, Clopin, Frollo, Quasimodo and the Chorus comment on the terrible power of Fate ("Fatalité").

Act II[edit]

Frollo and Gringoire discuss the events and scientific discoveries taking place in Florence and how some of them (such as Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press and Martin Luther’s doctrines) are changing the world forever ("Florence"). Gringoire notices how silent the cathedral is and Frollo tells him that Quasimodo has not rung the bells for three days.

Up in the bell tower, Quasimodo recounts how the cathedral bells are his only friends and loves ("Les Cloches"), especially the three "Maries": "Little Marie" which is rung for children’s funerals, "Big Marie" which is rung when ships set sail and "Great Marie" which is rung for weddings. His greatest hope is that they will ring for Esméralda to hear that he loves her.

Frollo asks Gringoire where his "wife" is ("Ou Est Elle?"); Gringoire says he does not know and answers obliquely (but he tells Clopin, who has been searching for Esmeralda, that she has been imprisoned in the prison of La Sainte and that she will be hanged if Clopin doesn’t save her).

In her cell, Esmeralda compares herself to a caged bird and calls to Quasimodo to save her, while back at Notre Dame Quasimodo wonders about Esmeralda’s disappearance three days earlier and fears for her safety ("Les Oiseaux Qu’on Met En Cage"). Clopin and a group of outcasts are arrested and thrown into the La Sainte prison ("Condamnes") as Esmeralda is put on trial for the attempted murder of Phoebus and sorcery with Frollo as presiding judge ("Le Procès/La Torture"); when she refuses to confess, she is subjected to a foot-crushing torture until she cries out "I confess!" Frollo sentences her to death by hanging, but Esmeralda still professes her love for Phoebus and Frollo is left to suffer from the emotional torment of his unrequited passion ("Être Prêtre Et Aimer Une Femme").

Elsewhere, a recovered Phoebus is confronted by Fleur-de-Lys, who tells him that he will still have her heart and love if he will swear to have Esmeralda executed ("La Monture"). Phoebus agrees ("Je Reviens Vers Toi"), claiming as an excuse that he was bewitched by Esmeralda’s "sorcery".

At five o'clock the morning of the execution, Frollo visits Esméralda’s cell and to her horror confesses to her that he knifed Phoebus out of love for her ("Un Matin Tu Dansais") and offers her a choice: death on the gallows or life by giving him love. When Esmeralda rejects his advances, he tries to rape her, but Quasimodo (who has secretly followed him) frees Clopin and the other prisoners. Clopin attacks Frollo, knocking him unconscious, and releases Esméralda and they flee the prison to Notre Dame for sanctuary ("Liberes").

Gringoire sings to the moon ("Lune") in which he describes Quasimodo’s pain and suffering because of his love for Esméralda.

Quasimodo leaves Esmeralda asleep in a safe place in Notre Dame ("Je Te Laisse Un Sifflet"), but bitterly reflects that while he will love her forever, his ugliness will ensure that she will never love him ("Dieu Que Le Monde Est Injuste"). Alone, Esmeralda hopes that she will survive for the man she loves and sings about how Love has the power to change the world even should she die ("Vivre").

With Clopin and his people occupying Notre Dame, Frollo orders Phoebus and his men to break sanctuary and attack the cathedral to drive them out ("L’Attaque de Notre Dame"). Clopin and his people resist bravely but are no match for the armed soldiers, and in the first attack Clopin is fatally wounded. Dying, he begs Esmeralda to take his place as leader. The final battle has Esmeralda and her people facing off against Phoebus and his soldiers, but the result is a foregone conclusion – Esmeralda is captured and the outcasts defeated. Phoebus coldbloodedly hands Esmeralda over to be executed, orders the outcasts driven out of Paris ("Déportés") and leaves with Fleur-de-Lys.

Quasimodo, searching Notre Dame for Esmeralda, finds Frollo standing at the top of one of the towers and begs him to help Esmeralda ("Mon Maitre, Mon Sauveur"). Frollo, finally driven insane, shows him the sight of Esmeralda being hanged and to Quasimodo's horror announces that he is responsible. As he laughs wildly, the enraged Quasimodo seizes him and hurls him down the stairs of the tower to his death. As the executioners are cutting down Esmeralda’s body from the gibbet, Quasimodo appears and demands that they give him her body. Driving them away, he kneels beside her body and mourns her, promising to stay with her and that even in death they will not be parted ("Danse, Mon Esmeralda").

After the curtain call, Gringoire leads the cast in a reprise of "Le Temps des Cathedrales".

Production history[edit]

The original production of Notre-Dame de Paris made musicals fashionable again in France and, since its inception, has spawned a number of other notable productions. As part of the publicity prior to the Paris opening three songs were released as singles: Vivre, Le Temps des cathédrales, and Belle. "Belle" became a huge hit, and was named Song of the Year in France, and nominated for Song of the Century. An English version of "Vivre" (Live for the One I Love) was both released by Celine Dion and Australian chanteuse Tina Arena, and appears on the original London cast recording, even though Dion did not participate in the musical.

Director Gilles Maheu staged the show in concert style, with the principal singers standing downstage center, with non-singing dancers upstage providing visual, but not dramatic, excitement. The orchestra and chorus were prerecorded; the principals wore very obvious boom mics.

Recordings[edit]

Cast Albums
1998: Concept Album
1998: Original Paris Cast, live at the Palais des Congrès
2000: London Studio Album
2001: French Studio Album
2001: Paris Cast (Live At The Théâtre Mogador)
2001: Original Spanish Cast
2001: Original Italian Cast
2002: Italian Cast, Live at the Arena di Verona
2002: Original Russian Cast
2002: French Studio Album with Les Choeurs de France
2005: Korean Tour Cast
2008: Original Korean Cast
2009: Original Highlights Russian Cast
2010: Original Flemish cast

Instrumental Albums
1999: Orchestral version by I Fiamminghi
2000: Piano version by Alan Lapointe
2003: Instrumental vesion of Italian Cast
2008: Instrumental vesion of Russian Cast

Video Recordings
1999: Live At The Palais des Congrès[2]
2001: Live At The Arena di Verona[3]
2002: Live At The Channel One Russia[4]
2008: Live At The Seoul Broadcasting System

Critical response[edit]

Critical reception outside of France has been mixed, with praise for the music and choreography, and general disdain for the English translation of the lyrics and the show's overall direction. For example, The Times praised the "doleful energy" of Garou's Quasimodo and the "occasional imaginative production touches: huge bells with writhing, upside-down humans for clappers" but concludes "Another Les Mis this isn't."[5] The Daily Mail called it "concert with dance, lighting effects and a lot of French singers throwing their hair around in a collective display of gravelly-voiced pique."[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]