Poor Quasimodo. The deformed hunchbacked bell ringer of Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral, whose heart is captured by a beautiful and kind-hearted gypsy, was sentenced early to a life of confinement inside the walls of the church. Shunned and despised by all for his deformities, he experiences only a brief moment of human kindness from the compassionate young Esmeralda, who offers him a drink of water while he is being whipped for punishment. Even she, though, is too disgusted by his ugliness to let him kiss her hand. He falls in love with her despite this and hopes to eventually win her heart. Alas, the young woman is tortured and sentenced to death by hanging for attempted murder. A tragic and moving scene featuring the broken-hearted Quasimodo singing to his beloved ensues and, watching it unfold before my eyes, I can't help but fight back a few tears. This is the original 'Danse, mon Esmeralda' performance by Garou in the French Canadian version of Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), based on French author Victor Hugo's 1831 play published under the same name.
The idea to attend this second longest running play in history (Les Miserables being #1) at the Sejong Theatre for the Performing Arts, one otherwise uneventful Saturday in February, came about following a particularly long and boring deskwarming day at school after our three week blissful tour of South East Asia. Desperate for some way to overcome our post-travel blues (which we have come to realize tend to be especially prominent during a snowless, freezing Korean winter), Jason and I started searching websites such as Korea For Expats for some non drinking (!) ideas and events to fill our weekends.
Seoul being a happening city with plenty to do, we had no trouble planning all sorts of fun activities (watch for blogs about our day at Lotte World Amusement Park and our Buddhist Temple Stay), including two upcoming concerts (LMFAO and Lady Gaga) in April, which we are completely STOKED about. Anyway, I digress.
Notre-Dame de Paris seemed like a natural choice since both of us enjoy musicals. The best part, though, is that this performance featured Western English speaking actors, unlike Cats' all-Korean cast. And although I must admit that the French language version of the show would have likely been more meaningful and authentic, this was hands down the next best thing. The harmonies were flawless, the characters were captivating, and the story was absolutely beautiful. While I walked out of the theatre amazed at what I had just taken part in and raving about 'the best musical I've ever seen!!!', Jason thought it was 'just ok'. So we disagreed on this one. That's why I'm the one blogging about it and not him :)
I couldn't help but spend the following week listening to the original soundtrack at school while doing some prep work, over and over and over. I must have been driving my coteacher up a wall. I eventually got over it once the new school year kicked off and I actually had to teach again. Still, this night will surely remain a personal favorite of mine, among the top highlights of my Korean experience.
I leave you with a performance of Belle by the original cast composed of Garou, Patrick Fiori and Daniel Lavoie. It is mesmerizing!
Long live Quasimodo and Notre Dame de Paris.