Notre Dame de Paris is a French musical which debuted on 16 September 1998 in Paris. It is based upon the novel Notre Dame de Paris by the French novelist Victor Hugo. The music was composed by Richard Cocciante and the lyrics are by Luc Plamondon.
Since its debut, it has played in many towns and cities across France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada. A shorter version in English has played since 2000 in Las Vegas (USA) and an English version (available on CD) has been performed in London where it has had some success. It has also been translated into Italian, Russian, Catalan and a (rather unimpressive) amateur production in Belarusian. It has also been translated independently into (but never performed in) Swedish and Armenian
The musical takes from the book mainly the love and tragedy that befalls the intriguing Esméralda and the repression that the guards impose on the "cour des miracles."
The gypsy Esméralda has been under the protection of Gypsy Leader Clopin since the death of her mother. The gypsies are chased out of Paris by the King's soldiers after they tried to claim sanctuary in the cathedral of Notre Dame. In the struggle, Esméralda catches the eye of the Captain of the Guard, Phœbus de Chateaupers, who is already engaged to 14 year old Fleur-de-Lys.
At the Feast of Fools, the hunchback bellringer of Notre Dame Quasimodo is watching Esméralda, whom he is in love with, when he is dragged centerstage and crowned King of Fools by the poet Gringoire. Frollo, the priest of Notre Dame, tears Quasimodo's crown off and warns him away from Esméralda, and outlines his plan to have Quasimodo help him kidnap Esméralda (whom Frollo is secretly obsessed with) and imprison her in one of the cathedral towers.
Gringoire is following Esméralda through Paris when she is attacked by Frollo and Quasimodo. However Phœbus was keeping watch, and protects her. Frollo remains unnoticed, but Quasimodo is arrested. Esméralda refuses Phœbus, but accepts an assignation with him at the cabaret Val d'Amour for the following evening.
Gringoire sneaks into the Court of Miracles where he is caught and condemned to death unless one of the gypsy women will marry him, making him one of them. Esméralda accepts at the last moment, saving Gringoire. He offers to make her his muse, but she is only interested in knowing more about Phœbus.
When Quasimodo is put to the wheel for attacking Esméralda, Frollo joins in the general condemnation, but Esméralda gives Quasimodo a drink of water when he begs for it, and he invites her to take refuge in the cathedral whenever she wants. Having her within reach drives Frollo wild with lust, and he follows Phœbus to his rendez-vous with Esméralda, where he stabs Phoebus with Esméralda's knife, leaving him for dead and her to be accused of the crime. Phœbus, meanwhile, has returned to his fiancée Fleur-de-Lys without a backward glance.
Clopin, Quasimodo and Frollo all wonder where Esméralda has disappeared to, and Gringoire reveals that she is awaiting trial at the prison La Santé. Frollo acting as the juge accuses Esméralda of witchcraft, prostitution, harassment and wounding Phœbus. Under torture, she confesses, and is condemned to death by hanging the following morning. In the dark hours before dawn, Frollo goes to Esméralda's cell, confesses his love and offers her freedom in exchanged for sex. When she refuses, he attempts to rape her. Quasimodo released the imprisoned gypsies who rescue Esméralda, and they all take refuge within Notre Dame. The guards attack the cathedral to evict the gypsies, and Clopin is killed. Frollo turns Esméralda over to Phœbus who has her hanged, and while the gypsies are exiled. Quasimodo finds Frollo watching Esméralda's execution, and Frollo confessed to having set Esméralda up because she refused him. Quasimodo kills Frollo by pushing him down the cathedral tower steps, and dies of a broken heart with the dead Esméralda in his arms.
Notre Dame de Paris made musicals fashionable in France, and since its inception, has spawned a number of other notable productions. The success is due to the love interest, but also due to the release of a number of songs as singles and their diffusion by both radio and television in the lead up to the opening night. Indeed, the English version of the song Vivre (Live for the One I Love) was sung by Céline Dion, even though she didn't participate in the musical.
Three songs were released as singles:
This musical allowed some of the cast to go on to successful solo careers in France, such as Patrick Fiori, Garou, Hélène Ségara, Julie Zenatti and Natasha St-Pier (Fleur-de-Lys in the West End production).