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  • Writer's pictureJulia Sumzina

Ballet l'Opéra de Paris: Roland Petit’s Notre Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris ballet is Roland Petit’s first piece for the Paris Opera Ballet created in 1965. The choreographer of Le Jeune Homme et La Mort (1946) and Carmen (1949) was inspired by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, one of the most celebrated masterpieces of French and European literature. Roland Petit himself performed the role of Quasimodo at the premiere.

1960s were a decade of Fashion from the capital letter and the costumes for Petit’s Notre Dame were colourful, but laconic and created by the fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent. The sets by the painter René Allio are also very stylish and still look modern, ingenious and distinctive.

The plot of the ballet is focussed on four main characters: Esmeralda, Quasimodo, Claude Frollo and Phoebus, who show the audience the story of love and pain, obsession and death. Nevertheless the crowd here is not just a background, it’s an important part of the action.

This summer the audience has the chance to see Notre-Dame by Roland Petit on the big screen, it was captured live (without audience) from Opéra Bastille, Paris on 1 April 2021.

The recent performance was danced by very interesting cast, where Stéphane Bullion, the handsome and “prince-looking” étoile, made his Quasimodo with great involvement. The difficult choreography where he had to perform the movements, appearing physically mutilated and hunchbacked, was a challenge he coped with perfectly. His character was at the same time touching and strong, we can clearly see his dependence and deep devotion for Claude Frollo is defeated by disappointment in him and great love to Esmeralda.

Mathias Heymann’s Frollo looks attractive and not so sinistrous as he could be. He was desperate, not so self-absorbed. However by his special feeling of role, energy and technique Heymann created a special image of Claude Frollo as a passionate and vulnerable man.

The Petit’s style of technique, often angular and built on contrasts, is very suitable for Amandine Albisson, who performed her Esmeralda as a “femme fatale”, a beautiful bright woman whose charm maddens men. At the same time she is a woman who is able to love, sympathize and be kind. In the half imaginary half real love scene involving Esmeralda, Phoebus (Florian Magnenet) and Frollo, she demonstrates her femininity and plastique. Quasimodo and Esmeralda’s pas de deux is touching and shows the specific kind of partnership, when the duo is more synchronized than connected by classical elements.

It’s curious to see all the cast including very interesting dancers as, for example, Yannick Bittencourt, Guillaume Diop and others in spectacular mass scenes, colourful and dark, cheerful and foreboding ones.

The contrasts of the plot between beauty and ugliness, selflessness and devoted love are showed on stage by the special choreography and contrastic sets and colours. Everything in this ballet is sharp and as if to resist, it makes the piece bright and very interesting to watch.

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