The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Say what you will about the French, their sense of cultural values is unimpeachable. With the specter of the massive crowds for a papal funeral in St. Peter's Square still in the air, we hark back to 1885 when 3 million French attended the state funeral of Victor Hugo.

They were paying homage to a poet, novelist, and dramatist the likes of which they've never seen before or since. Hugo's sense of the tragic, in Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was of such scale that it captured the spirit of a nation as old and complex as Gaul.

Photo of Koichi Kubo as Quasimodo and Maria Mosina as Esmeralda
Koichi Kubo as Quasimodo
and Maria Mosina as Esmeralda
Photo: Terry Shapiro
A large part of Hugo's power lies in the undercurrent of fate which he weaves through his tales. This is as true of Javert's relentless pursuit of Jean Valjean in Les Miserable as it is with Quasimodo's desire for Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

However, the translation of such rich and colorful works onto the stage, and the distillation of epics spread across hundreds of pages into a couple of turns of the hourglass, is no mean feat. Of such undertakings, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's success with the musical version of Les Miserable is legendary, but they've now been joined in a wholly unexpected manner by the creative team of director and choreographer Michael Pink, composer Philip Feeney, scenic and costume designer Lez Brotherston, and lighting designer Paul Pryant with their ballet version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Photo of Koichi Kubo as Quasimodo
Koichi Kubo as Quasimodo
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Colorado Ballet fans will recognize this as the same group that created the company's crowd-pleasing Dracula. And much like that gripping production, The Hunchback is a phenomenal blend of emotive orchestration, evocative lighting, and stunning choreography.

It's only surprising that no one had thought of doing this before—telling the mute Hunchback's tale in an art form bereft of words. And no words are needed. Koichi Kubo's Quasimodo elicits pathos at every turn as he cringes from the mocking crowds, yet never waivers in his love and compassion for the gypsy dancer.

Photo of Maria Mosina as Esmeralda
Maria Mosina as Esmeralda
Photo: Terry Shapiro
In this, of course, he is not alone, as Esmeralda turns the head of every man who crosses her path. Maria Mosina's spirited performance, both lyrical and exotic, leaves no doubt why this is so. And it is this allure, of course, that leads to tragedy.

But as Hugo so strongly points out, it is not the physically bestial hunchback who threatens Esmeralda; rather, it is the spiritually deformed Archdeacon Frollo, who poses the greatest danger. And you thought the Church's sex scandals were something new? One can only laugh at the ominous musical and choreographic parallels between Frollo in this piece, and Dracula from the previous work. Here, John Henry Reid's performance provides graphic contrast between Frollo's holy posturing and his demonic stalking.

Photo of Maria Mosina as Esmeralda and<br>John Henry Reid as Frollo
Maria Mosina as Esmeralda and
John Henry Reid as Frollo
Photo: Terry Shapiro
And who should rescue the girl from this lascivious liturgist? Much as we might hope that it would be the gallant Pheobus, Captain of the Guard—the always elegant and bold Igor Vassin—it is not him, but the "Pope of Fools," Quasimodo. Again, Hugo sets up another pillar of society and exposes him as a hypocrite: in this case, the soldier is willing to romance Esmeralda, but marry only the haughty Fleur de Lis, whose family has money and position. No wonder the French love Hugo—he is as relentless as Molière in attacking pretentiousness.

The Colorado Ballet's The Hunchback of Notre Dame runs through May 8th. 303-837-8888 or

Bob Bows


Current Reviews | Home | Webmaster