Posted on March 25, 2011
La Esmeralda, Jules Perrot’s 1844 ballet based on Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Nôtre Dame, was an international ballet hit. Hugo’s gypsy heroine has a pet goat, who plays an important part in the novel’s plot. At first, the people of Paris are charmed by the trained goat’s tricks. Later, they see them as proof that Esmeralda is a witch.
The goat appeared in Perrot’s ballet, too. Many old prints show ballerinas such as Carlotta Grisi and Fanny Elssler as Esmeralda, complete with pet. In 1886, Marius Petipa created his own version of the ballet, starring ballerina Mathilde Kchessinska, who had a sensational success in the role. Kchessinska even had her own pet goat: in the signed portrait photograph she sent to the Dancing Times, the ballerina sits on a sofa with a dog on one side, the goat on the other.
In 2009, the Bolshoi Ballet company unveiled a new reconstruction of Petipa’s La Esmeralda, in a production by Yuri Burlaka and Vasily Medvedev. This spring, the Staatsballett Berlin will dance its own version, drawing on the new Bolshoi production. This publicity photograph from the Staatsballett Berlin suggests that, once again, a goat will be among those present.
La Esmeralda opens at Deutsche Oper Berlin on April 9, and runs until May 22. See www.staatsballett-berlin.de for details.
Picture: Elisa Carrillo Cabrera as Esmeralda in the Staatsballett Berlin’s production. Photograph: Enrico Nawrath.