This is my review of the “Phantom of the Opera” which is a book (originally written in French by Gaston Leroux) which has been filmed over and over again – as silent, black and white, with colour as a musical, etc. – and the Broadway musical (by the British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber).  I have read the abridged version of the book in English, seen the 2004 very musical-like movie, and heard the Broadway musical a little bit but not seen it.

I came across the term “Phantom of the Opera” while reading Sarah Brightman’s biography.  As I made searches in the internet, I found her singing the duet with Michael Crawford, Antonio Barendas, Chris Thompson and other male singers.  Wow, what a song and what a voice: Brightman elevated her voice to an E6 – an E ‘natural’ at the end of the song!  I went on to find out more.  I read the story synopsis and on Wikipedia and found out some things about it.  Then, I went to the American Centre’s Baldwin Library to look for the book and the film.  I found the book first.

Here’s the SYNOPSIS

“The young Swedish soprano, Christine Daaé, catches the eye of the masked Phantom – Erik who calls himself OG (i.e. Opera Ghost) that haunts the Paris Opéra, and he falls in love with her and her beautiful voice. He is a genius at many things – music, architecture, ventriloquism and many other art forms – and is capable of doing many startling things from surviving in the underground chambers of the Opera to committing merciless murder. One thing particularly striking about him was his indescribable ugliness: he had an emaciated body with almost no flesh or muscles, his skin was pale and yellow and his face had two dark holes for the eyes but no nose, and thus always wore a mask to hide his hideous features.  He agrees to coach Christine in her singing and helps her move up the ranks of the opera by sending a chandelier crashing down on the audience and terrifying the current lead soprano into leaving the company. Terrified, Christine gets the help of her boyfriend, Viscount Raoul de Changy, to trick the Phantom, but the mysterious man is two steps ahead of their every move. The Phantom abducts Christine so that she cannot run away with Raoul, and then issued an ultimatum – either marry him so that he can live a happy life with her or have the whole opera house blown up which would kill everyone, including Christine and himself.  The girl, in order to save everyone, agrees to marry the Phantom and as she was released she kissed the Phantom on the forehead thanking him for not destroying the opera house and the people there.  He, then, felt a tingle of pleasance as he realizes that Christine shows her gratitude and kindness and has love and care for him.  After that, he releases Christine so that she can live a happy ending she and her boyfriend deserve.”

Phantom of the Opera

He's there the Phantom of the Opéra ...

Book Review – Gaston ‘Phantom’ Leroux

I haven’t read the original version (in French) so I have no idea how significant in literature as a fiction.  But the abridged version in English – that I read – is quite good in language, description and other things.  It could depict each scene, each thought and action of the characters.  Reading the book, I found myself I found myself exploring various corners of the Paris Opéra – from the underground cellars to the top attics, from the most crowded places in the theatre to the most isolated and deserted where the Phantom roamed.  I could infer from the story that the Phantom – whom everybody would entitle “villain” – is merely an outcast of human society and longs for tender love and gentle kindness.  As he finds Christine, he lured her with his amazing musical talent and enchanting voice but still stays hidden in the shadows fearing that she might leave when she discovers his true identity.  But when Christine’s childhood sweetheart Raoul appeared, he made abhorrent efforts to keep the young girl for himself.  All this time, he didn’t realize that in some way, Christine loved, respected and valued him; he even threatened her life and everybody else’s.  However, after Christine agreed to marry him so that the others, including her boyfriend, can live, he received a kiss on his forehead by Christine.  He suddenly changes his mind; he decides not to marry the girl but go on to live alone.  He promises not to hurt anyone anymore and asks Raoul and Christine to never tell anyone anything about him.

What I came to know here was that, when somebody feels like an outcast in a society or doesn’t fit in one, he may turn to the dark side despite all the good things he could do.  I also learned that expressing the appreciation of gratitude, love, care or any other good thing towards people means a lot to them – even if what you do seems to be nothing.  Such expression is not a difficult thing for us to do and is of no bother or burden and thus should not be hesitated: a simple smile, a warm hand-shake, a sincere compliment, a friendly thank you would suffice.

Musical Review – the 1986 Broadway Phantom Webber

As I have said before, I haven’t listened to or seen this musical form beginning to end.  But knowing the original story, I must confess that it is quite a shock for me to discover that the story has been abridged an awful lot.  Everything from the Phantom’s kidnapping of Christine to Raoul’s attempts to find her are deleted – diminishing the value of theme and climax of Leroux’s story.

The songs – both the music and the words – were exceptionally beautiful but the new story modified to fit in to the theatrical aspects fails to be accompanied by the fine tunes.  “Think of Me” could display Sarah Brightman’s skilful staccato singing.  Her lyric coloratura vocal is again amplified in her duet with Michael Crawford “the Phantom of the Opera” – where Sarah’s voice soared to an E6 natural.  “All I Ask of You”, which is almost the theme song for the characters Raoul and Christine, has very touching and moving lyrics and melody though I didn’t enjoy Sarah Brightman and Steve Barton singing it: I prefer the cover of this song by the American mezzo-soprano Barbra Streisand.  These songs became some of the ones I frequently listen to.

Honestly, I think Andrew Lloyd Webber created this musical for Sarah Brightman, his then-wife, because he claimed that the Phantom wouldn’t have been without Sarah.  Duh … !

Film Review – the Phan-2004-tom

Since this film is derived from the Webber musical, it lacks all the excitement of the original story from the book.  What’s worse, characters are vividly depicted in the film – no dark hallways, no suspense and worst of all, the extremely thin Phantom in the book came to be muscular and had a good complexion, not a pale one.  On finishing the movie – on a DVD player at home, I thought to myself, “I’d rather read the book again while listening to the Webber songs.  What a waste of time it has been watching this movie!”  I wouldn’t label the film “insipid” but it wasn’t stellar – at all.  The Leroux story was ruined in the movie even more badly than in the musical and the actors don’t sing very well.  Emmy Rossum who played Christine was a soprano her voice was nothing close to Sarah Brightman’s.  I wonder how some people can like this movie; they should read the book before seeing the film or the musical.  I don’t recommend this film.