Tale of a Lebanese gypsy

“It was the gypsy girl. Her voice, like her dancing and her beauty, had some indefinable and charming quality—something pure and sonorous; something, so to speak, soaring, winged…” Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris.

When Hiba Tawaji, a talented Lebanese singer and actress, joined the fourth season of France’s version of The Voice, little did we know about the extent of her success or the impact it would have on her career. Today, strolling by the Seine while making her debut on the French scene, the Lebanese is incarnating the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda in the renewed French musical “Notre Dame de Paris”, based on Victor Hugo’s novel.

Eighteen years after the original, the world felt a bit older when the musical made a return at the Palais des Congrès de Paris, where the audience was introduced to a new set of cast (with the exception of Daniel Lavoie who reprised his role of Archdeacon Claude Frollo).

The musical narrates a gothic story of fluctuating morality, which revolves around faith, sin, love, and lust, in order to ultimately help define the fine line between monster and man:

Set in a fictional Paris where gypsies were labeled as outcasts and heathen foreigners were looked down on by many with contempt. One gypsy girl however, a French Roma called Esmeralda, manages to steal the hearts of four men[1], each embodying a certain aspect and trait of society; with Notre-Dame (a medieval Catholic cathedral) towering over all the dissension burning Paris.


In this renewed version of the musical, Tawaji not only manages to cast a spell on her fictional lovers, but also succeeds at seducing the Parisian audience as well; closely following Hélène Ségara’s[2] footsteps, Hiba is a step closer to international fame.

Old and new, fans and music connoisseurs felt serenaded by the return of classical and widely acclaimed musical numbers: “Le temps des cathédrales”, “Déchiré”, “Belle”… from which the most notable thematic sophistication would be “Vivre”, performed and interpreted by none other than the Lebanese gypsy.

After nearly two decades, the bells of Notre-Dame never seemed to stop ringing; awakening audiences from all corners of the world to attend a musical phenomenon worthy of bringing Victor Hugo’s work to life. Currently playing in Palais des Congrès de Paris, plans are already set to take the musical on a tour in France; possibly abroad… So the question stands — will we ever see Notre-Dame de Paris in Lebanon? Or is Hiba bound to Esmeralda’s tale, a gypsy performing in a foreign land? Spira, spera.[3]


Anthony Farhat

Law Student



[1]  Phoebus, Pierre Gringoire, Quasimodo and Archdeacon Claude Frollo.

[2] Hélène Ségara is a French singer best known for playing the role of Esmeralda in the original French musical Notre Dame de Paris.

[3] “While I breathe, I hope “from Notre-Dame de Paris, by Victor Hugo.


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