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The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Martí Theater

Published: 2018.02.23 - 16:19:59   /  /  Verónica Alonso Coro  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

Musical Theater is a genre, if not underestimated, sometimes overlooked in the Cuban art scene. Beyond memorable scenes sung in the buffo theater, and reproduced in popular films such as La Bella del Alhambra, few works of this genre have transcended the actual moment of their staging, to be embedded in the history or memory of the people.

Since its creation in the early 2000s, the theater group of the Anfiteatro del Centro Histórico de La Habana has aimed to rescue and revitalize musical theater. Starting with plays such as The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Beauty and the Beast or more recently, Aladdin, the group has shown a high level of professionalism, popularity and love for the genre.

As proof of this, we have the musical ‘’The Hunchback of Notre Dame’’, this time on the stage of an attractive and important venue, the Martí Theater. The season concluded last weekend, but, at the request of the public, it will continue at the Amphitheater headquarters between March and September of this year.

The staging in the Martí Theater was the realization of a desire of the group postponed for years. The work had been released on June 21, 2008, with a favorable acceptance by the public and critics, but the arrival of Hurricane Gustav caused that, of forty programmed performances, only 26 were carried out. Almost ten years after the meteorological event, it was decided to present a renewed version of that work.

The result has been, without a doubt, positive. The show has a great visual and sound appeal. Alfonso Menéndez, who is the director of the company of the Historical Center Amphitheater, created this version from a kind of "musical collage."

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ricardo Cocciante, Byron Janis, Paul McCartney, among others, appear fraternal in a solution that stands out for the fluidity and coherence of the music, in favor of the plot.

The work is a tribute to Victor Hugo, a French Romantic writer par excellence and author of Our Lady of Paris. This novel is the starting point of the various creations that have taken the hunchbacked campaigner of Notre Dame as inspiration. The Cuban libretto continues with this line and presents a well-known argument, which is similar to that of film versions such as the animated Disney of 1996.

In the recently completed season at the Teatro Martí the colorful staging stood out, which was achieved through the good work of lighting and costumes. The scenography was also a strong point, synthesizing, with emphasis on Gothic arcades and scaffolding, the essence of the medieval world, where the cathedral stands as a symbol and center of power.

The performances were remarkable, especially the actors who performed leading roles such as Hunchback, Esmeralda and Captain Febo de Châteaupers, in which the vocal performance also stood out. In this last aspect, however, the performance of the choir and other secondary characters leaves much to be desired. Their performance takes place from the previously recorded sound, which affects the naturalness and virtuosity of the staging.

Beyond these observations, the performance offers a moment of healthy entertainment and visual delight. The efforts of this company to revitalize the musical theater and place it within the preference of the public is always valid.

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