Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Night at the Opera -- with the Phantom of the Opera

I wrote this for The Witchy Chicks, so thought I would share it here since I'm still off line and on deadline:

I have been living in a hole lately. Not my fault, but not exactly avoidable. What this means is, I have done nothing, absolutely nothing, that could fall under the "miscellaneous culture" tag. No opera, no concerts, not even a movie. Heck, not even a dinner out!

I am, of late, culturally challenged.

So, with that in mind I bring to you tonight a memory of one of my all-time favorite musicals, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. No, I have never seen it on stage. Yes, I had heard the LP of the music and fell in love with the music. But {but!} when ALW brought it to the big screen and changed the vision of the Phantom somewhat from disfigured psychopath to disfigured tragic man with a few unfortunate psychotic tendencies explained by his need to control an out-of-control world that would never understand him, a world that turned against him the moment he was born with his physical handicap, I fell completely and utterly under the spell. This was a Phantom I could understand. This was a Phantom I could pity. This was a Phantom in which I could see the man, not just the travesty.

The movie did it for me in every way.

I can't even begin to describe the sumptuous sets, the swell of the full orchestra that pours into you until you feel almost bursting with the music itself, the intrigue, the mystery. The sweetness of Christine {in the movie version, she is an innocent and very much naive of her own power over this mysterious man}, and the pure, knight-in-shining-armor love of her Raoul. But the Phantom . . . oh, the Phantom. Dark, dangerous, sinuous, sinister, mysterious, a bad boy in every sense of the word. His love for the music is evident from the first moment he appears on screen as he lurks several levels below the stage and allows the music to fill him. He smolders on screen from the moment he holds out his hand to Christine, a command to come to him. Confident on the outside, but pleading and yearning on the inside. . . The Phantom's power lies in his bravado, and he knows it. What's more, he's learned how to wield it well.

"I am your Angel of Music, Come to me, Angel of Music."

It still sends shivers down my spine.
After three and a half years of wearing out my CDs, I still can’t listen to the music or watch the movie without tears, and I think that's quite amazing in this day and age. The emotional honesty of the premier voices never fails to amaze me. Emmy Rossum’s haunting soprano blends seamlessly with Patrick Wilson’s quietly accomplished Raoul, and the circle is completed by the raw energy and heartstopping pathos in Gerard Butler’s appealing baritone--sometimes rough-edged, sometimes smooth and pure, but always, always compelling with sheer masculine power. If you have somehow managed to miss this, do whatever it takes to get your hands on it. You’ll never forget it.
Here are some favorite scenes/music:

ALW wanted the Phantom to have a kind of rock and roll quality -- and boy, did he ever.

As evidenced by the way he swings that cape. ;>
Music of the Night is one of the most beautiful pieces in the entire production.
Desire . . .

Love . . .

Betrayal . . .

Desperation . . .

And in the end, sacrifice . . .

All the elements of a timeless work that will live on forever.

And Gerard Butler as the Phantom . . . who would have thought at the time? Honestly and truly, Gerard Butler does tortured and conflicted better than anyone. His performance in some of these scenes completely blew me away. So much emotion. I know, as someone with empathic tendencies I'm more than a little susceptible . . . but there is just something very special about it.

I leave you now with a POTO fan video from one of my favorite video editors, BluEyedDaizy Productions. This aria appeared as the epilogue in Ken Hill's stage production of POTO to music from The Pearl Fishers by Bizet. Haunting aria, absolutely gorgeous voices, and Blu's ability to match clips from the film to the music with some truly beautiful special effects all make this an all-time standout for me. Even if you have no time to watch the clips above, please watch this one video and see if it speaks to you, too. :)

Love to all,

Mad {madly!}


AZ said...

You know what part makes me hurt the most? Well, actually, there are two, because, after all, it is Gerry. When Christine rips his mask off after he just laid his heart bare to her during "Point of No Return". The other, when he lets the madness show through when they are in the "Track Down This Murderer" scene and he says "You try my patience. Make your choice".

I have actually posted twice about him this week, so I think he is actually mine and not yours.

Also, I have pre ordered your book :-)

Madelyn Alt said...

AZ, LOL. Mine, yours. What does it matter? It matters only that he is. =)

I agree with your two choices {Mad claps hand to heart as her breath hitches in}, and I'll add yet another: the way that the fury on his face transforms to hope as she walks through the water to him, then transforms again to wonder at the kiss, and then yet again after the second kiss when he looks into her eyes and realizes there is no way he can freely have her heart, even if he forces her to stay with him. And then--then!--the "OMG-she-came-back-to-me" expression that lights up his eyes at her return, only to have that dashed when she gives him her ring and leaves for good.