The Phantom of the Opera

January 2015

Taking the husband for a Broadway show turned out to be easier than I thought. All I had to do way book tickets and tell him.

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As a part of Broadway week, tickets were being offered at half price. I was over the moon to find tickets available for the Phantom of the Opera. I had heard (and read) so much about this show, I was half afraid I’d be let down by my own expectations. The show was playing at the Majestic Theatre. This is one of the largest Broadway theatres and has housed The Phantom of the Opera since it opened on January 26, 1988.  I got tickets for the same day. These were the cheapest tickets in the house. They were centre seats, but way back in the Rear Mezzanine. The seats were comfortable. The number of seats and the tiny walking space through the rows make it feel like the person in the seat behind is on your head, but that’s just a feeling and you get over it quickly.

The show was spectacular. The production itself was worth the ticket. The stage set-up was marvelous. The subterranean lake set is so surreal,you’ll find yourself wishing you were in the gondola. The costumes and the grand staircase of the masquerade gala will stay with you forever. Scenes changed and one grand set replaced the other in a blink of an eye. After a while I stopped blinking, but I still couldn’t catch how they did it. Andrew Lloyd Webber music was stellar as expected. The costumes and make up added flair to the production. Colour has been used effectively to convey character, emotions and moods.This brings me back to the seats. The Rear Mezzanine is way too far to admire these details fully, unless you are carrying opera glasses perhaps. Also, you are really peering down at the stage from here. I think the Front Mezzanine would have been a better choice. You get a bit of a “pitch” to your view and it is not so close that you can’t see the entire stage, nor so far that the curtain blocks the top.

Except for the Phantom, all other characters are quite one dimensional. The Phantom himself at best is two (dimensional). Christine, the lost child woman vacillates between her Angel of Music and true love.The prima donna Charlotte is a diva with starry tantrums.  Madame Giry, the Opéra’s ballet mistress is a women who mysteriously knows a lot about the Phantom.Viscount Raoul is the good Prince Charming, who has precious little to do. I guess the duration of the musical is too short to explore each character in depth. On the other hand, if it had been any longer it would have be an awful drag.

The story is old fashioned. It is set in times when a disfigured face and body was considered a curse of God and people with such afflictions were considered bad luck and shunned by society. Forced to live hidden, in darkness and despair, the Phantom is bereft of all sense of remorse. He kills without compunction, and will stop at nothing to get what he wants, and how an act of kindness changes it all.

*SPOILERS AHEAD* *SPOILERS AHEAD* *SPOILERS AHEAD*

It’s fashionable these days to imbue the hero shades of grey, but the Phantom is no hero. The titular Phantom of the Opera is an anti-hero, like SRK of Darr, who is obsessed with the heroine – Christine Daaé. Christine Daaé is a chorus girl the Phantom, in the guise of the Angel of Music, trains to be soprano. Christine, in turn, idolizes her Angel. So much so that even when Raoul, her childhood sweetheart, now a Viscount, returns she chooses to go to the Angel of Music. Remember all those fairy tales where the heroine is married to a bear who turns into handsome prince at night and then loses him because she lights a candle to see his face or something? Unable to contain her  curiosity, Christine pulls his mask off and loses her Angel of Music forever. Left behind is the Phantom of the Opera.

Like Beauty, of Beauty and the Beast, she is at first repulsed, but unlike Beauty who gradually sees the goodness inside the Beast, Christine goes on to witness the darker side of the Phantom; his obsession and insanity. The Phantom demands that Christine be made the prima donna of the new production. When the production company does not comply, he kills the opera’s chief stagehand to get his way. A terrified Christine commits her love to Raoul. The Phantom who sees her love as a way to rise out of his torment and wretchedness is livid. Her love was that exquisite light which he thought would dispel the darkness in his life. As his hopes for a beautiful life are shattered, he symbolically brings down opera’s grand chandelier with a dramatic crash.

Another noteworthy symbolism, is the Phantom trying to win Christine back in the graveyard. Her love for him is dead and he is trying to resurrect it with his music. The name Christine itself could be symbolic. Christine is the feminine of Christ. The Phantom sees Christine as his savior, his way out of hell.

The Phantom, determined to have his way, causes a series of mishaps on the sets of the Opera, forcing the opera’s owners to produce his master piece with Christine in the lead; hoping to convince Christine of his great love for her. The result is the exact opposite; she loathes him even more. Tired of being despised for his hideousness and desperate to be loved as a hero, the Phantom secretly kills the opera’s lead tenor and takes his place on stage. When Christine realizes this and exposes him, he flees from the horrified audience taking her captive.

Taking Raoul, who comes to rescue her, hostage the Phantom tries to strike a bargain with Christine – love for love. She resists, but is ultimately so moved by his misery and torment that she kisses him. The Phantom, who has known neither love nor pity, is in turn so touched by her compassion that he sets them both free. It is not pity that the Phantom seeks however, he seeks love! His eyes light up when she returns, but she has come only to return his ring. My heart broke into a million pieces. It’s not fair! She loved him till Raoul sauntered in and even after that. If only she had not seen his face, if only he had not been so afraid of losing her, if only he had not murdered a man…..

In the final scene, a witch hunt is launched for the Phantom, but when they reach his lair he has disappeared, setting the stage for Phantom of the Opera –Part II, which by the way is played out entirely in my own head.

Phantom of the Opera –Part II

Many years have passed since the events at the Opera. Christine has quit the opera and is now married to the Viscount (Raoul). The witch hunt is still on. A man is caught and Christine is called upon to identify him as the Phantom and testify against him. At first she shudders and refuses. She is frightened of what new havoc he will create, but the Viscount bolsters her courage. Embolden by his love she goes to court, but when she sees the man she says it is not he. Just as the Phantom sets her free in the original, she allows him to go free.

As he walks out, they acknowledge each other with an imperceptible nod of her head and tip of his hat.

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4 thoughts on “The Phantom of the Opera

  1. Amazing! Your description of the musical is so vivid that I could have the musical play in my head (like a movie in my mind). Well, I have watched the musical many times so yeah. Glad you loved Phantom! As you can tell from my display image I love Phantom as well.

    Like

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