France had its Twin Towers moment when its most potent symbol, Notre-Dame, caught fire one idyllic evening in April 2019. Parisians and the world looked on in disbelief as smoke and flames billowed from the roof and the wooden spire collapsed as the sun was setting.

Video footage of the catastrophe is etched into our collective memory, and some of these still-shocking images form the backdrop to Notre-Dame, an excellent “music drama” presented by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir.

Notre-Dame, City Recital Hall. Photo © Keith Saunders

From an original concept of Artistic Director Paul Dyer, writer-director Alana Valentine has created a bubbly female Australian engineer (engagingly played by actor Matilda Ridgway and “heritage-trained on the Commonwealth Bank building in Martin Place”), who goes to Paris to work on the restoration project that was under way when the disaster struck.

Her stage companion is the ghost of Victor Hugo (Glenn Hazeldine), whose 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame sparked a much earlier campaign to save the cathedral from disrepair and ruin. Originally slotted for the ABO’s 2020 season and canned by COVID, Valentine’s work took out the 2021 Australian Writers Guild...