Fri, Mar 17, 2006 - Page 13 News List

Quasimodo's passions rise to new heights

The musical version of Victor Hugo's epic once again visits Taiwan, this time making full use of the bigger stage space at the Taipei Arena

By Ho Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

If you didn't get to see the French musical Notre Dame de Paris last year in Taipei, you now have the opportu-nity to see an improved version. To be performed at the new Taipei Arena (台北小巨蛋), organizers said the upcoming show will eclipse last year's at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (國立國父紀念館) and last month's production which was staged in South Korea.

There has already been a huge demand for seats, prompting organizers to schedule additional performances on May 30, April 1 and April 2. Tickets for the show became available online on Wednesday.

Based on French novelist Victor Hugo's 1831 novel of the same name, Notre Dame de Paris has been hailed as the Phantom of the Opera of the French-speaking world. It has smashed box office records and drew rave reviews in Europe, North America and Asia since its 1998 world premiere in Paris.

Set in 15th-century Paris, the musical tells a tale of love, betrayal and prejudice which focuses on the beautiful gypsy dancer Esmeralda from Spain and the hunchback bell-ringer Quasimodo. The narrative is told through 52 songs and without dialogue. It differs from conventional Broadway musicals as French-Canadian composer Luc Plamondon has used a pop-music style for the show's tunes.

All the leading performers were selected for their solid pop and rock musical backgrounds. Canadian vocalist Matt Laurest, who stars in the lead role as Quasimodo, is a well-known blues singer, while French songstress Nadia Bel as Esmeralda, has been crooning romantic numbers since her youth. Cast in the role of the captain of the king's cavalry Phoebus, French actor and musician Laurent Ban has participated in numerous rock operas and moves freely between different musical genres.

Notre Dame de Paris

When: March 23, 24, 28, 30 and 31 at 7:30pm; March 25 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm; March 26 and April 2 at 2:30pm; March 29 at 10pm; April 1 at 8:30pm

Where: Taipei Arena

Tickets: Tickets cost from NT$400 to NT$6,000 and are available through ERA ticketing outlets or at www.ticket.com.tw


The production could be viewed as more of a concert than a musical. The seven lead actors sing into headset-microphones in the foreground, but in the background a troupe of highly flexible dancers perform astonishing contortions.

Such seeming incongruities, according to the organizers, are exactly the innovative strengths of the production. As Serina Chen (陳琪), director of the organizer Taipei Arts International Association (TAIA) (台北藝術推廣協會), points out, the huge success of the musical lies in its ability to blend contemporary performance art and popular music.

"Before Notre Dame de Paris, there were only American and British styles of musicals on the market, and musicals in Europe were not a well-received theatrical genre. But the French production [is] the first of its kind to combine contemporary dance and theater with rock music to reach wider audiences," Chen said.

The production's innovative approach can be seen immediately in the minimalist version of the legendary Notre Dame cathedral used as the show's backdrop, which was created by Gilles Maheu, a veteran avant-garde theater director from Montreal. The choreography by Martino Muller is eclectic and highly contemporary. In Notre Dame de Paris, Muller's unique dance language employs academic ballet techniques to synthesize contemporary dance with elements from street dance and acrobatics.

Selected from more than 700 professional performers, the 16 dancers and acrobats express the full intensity and power of Muller's choreography, which even includes a high-wire act. The performers underline the show's emotional tone through movement rather than words.

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