A couple of weeks ago I was traveling to Ireland, in a very nice little town called Dingle, defined as the “foodie capital”. In fact, you eat very well there!
I was in a hotel, or rather in a guesthouse furnished with taste and with antiques.
Looking for a hair dryer to dry not only hair but rather wet clothes, I was told by the hostess to open a compartment of an antique chest of drawers. And what do I find inside the drawer?
A libretto of The Phantom of the Opera, or rather the libretto of the world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical in 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theater in London. Where the play is still presented today.
If you want to buy tickets, here you are!Her Majesty’s Theatre London | Home of The Phantom of the Opera | SeatPlan
Birth and content of The Phantom of the Opera
Published after The Mystery of the Yellow Room and The Perfume of the Lady in Black, it confirms the success of Gaston Leroux and is certainly his most famous work in the world.
Viscount Raoul de Chagny, a childhood friend, tries to be recognized by her, but the young woman pretends not to recognize him. Subsequently, she escapes him by all means in an inexplicable way, much to the desperation of the viscount passionately in love with her.
She is sometime very strange. Don’t you recall the protagonists of Beetlejuice? By the way, she is not the only one who is weird.
Nothing really goes well with the opera Garnier, which is the scene of dramas: the great chandelier collapses on the audience, a machinist is found hanged, the directors are forced to give 20,000 francs a month for the rent of the theater to a stranger and to reserve him Box 5.
Everyone assures that these inconveniences are caused by the Phantom of the Opera, an inhuman being who haunts the building.
Eventually Christine Daaé takes the Viscount aside on the roofs of the Opéra Garnier so not to be heard. She confesses that she too is passionately in love with him and explains her strange behavior. Also, she confides that she had witnessed a miracle: one evening, in her dressing room, she received a visit from a melodious voice who gave her singing lessons.
She also tells him that what she believed to be the Angel of Music (a genius Christine’s father told her and Raoul about) is actually a horrible ghost who loves her. She explains that she is not there yet, only because she makes the ghost believe that she loves him too. However, she admits she is disgusted by the ghost’s monstrous ugliness and begs Raoul to kidnap her and run away from her. But they don’t know what ghost spies on them.
Raoul and Christine later plan to escape, but the singer disappears onto the stage after the theater is plunged into sudden darkness, during a new performance of Gounod’s Faust. The Phantom is obviously the author of this kidnapping, completely mad with jealousy.
Raoul immediately goes in search of him and is helped by the Persian, a strange character who knows Erik well for having saved him in the past. The two men then enter the underground labyrinths of the Opera. But unfortunately they end up falling into Erik’s trap: the torture chamber.
From the torture chamber, Persian and Raoul are able to communicate with Christine. She tells them in awe that Erik is determined to kill everyone if he doesn’t marry him. As the situation becomes critical for Raoul, the Persian manages to open a hatch. He leads to a room where the lined barrels are full of dust: the ghost is planning to blow up the opera house! Erik gives Christine an ultimatum: choose to become his wife and save everyone, or refuse and condemn the work. Christine chooses to become her wife. Eventually, she ends up being genuinely moved by the Phantom, who only asks for one thing: to be loved.
Erik seeing Christine’s compassion, her tears and her kiss that she receives from him without horror, frees her from her and allows her to leave with Raoul whom she truly loves.
Eventually Erik dies “of love” and Christine keeps the promise she had made him long ago: bury him in a place where no one could find him.
Who is the real Phantom of the Opera?
His origins are confused, even if in the novel it is made clear that he could have been of French origin and with a background in the East. He had a disfigured face. With a disfigured face, Erik was born there and for this reason he was also disowned by his mother. He began to cover himself with a mask from an early age. From the few flashbacks on his life it turns out that he arrives in the East traveling like a freak, like those of the Barnum circus, so to say.
His deformity was somehow rewarded by an incredible talent in singing, which charms Christine. In the basement of the theater, Erik works incessantly on what will be his last work: the triumphant Don Giovanni.
The legacy of The Phantom of the Opera
Compared to the great myths of the fantastic (Frankenstein, Dracula…), The Phantom of the Opera had a more discreet fate on screen. However, Gaston Leroux’s novel had resources that could give hope for much luck. A character with a corpse ugliness, who haunts the Paris Opera and lives in its basement, composer and in love with a young singer, who kidnaps the latter and does not hesitate to kill to eliminate a rival singer … The ingredients have been collected. so that the mixture of the themes of the opera (passion, madness …) and the gothic novel was at the origin of an important lineage not only cinematographic.
Following Leroux’s novel, there have indeed been many literary and other dramatic works, ranging from musicals to films to children’s books.
Among the first film adaptations we mention two silent films. One is a German adaptation called Das Gespenst im Opernhaus, now a lost film. It was made in 1916. The next adaptation was made in 1925 by Universal Studios. It was a success with the public.
Since we’re playing at home, let’s not forget 1998’s Phantom of the Opera: directed by Dario Argento, starring Julian Sands and Asia Argento, in which Julian Sands is a handsome man whose animus comes from being abandoned as a child and raised by the countless rats in the underground levels of the opera house. He too has somehow developed telepathic abilities. He kills various people who, according to him, spoil the wonder of the opera house.
We also remember The Phantom of the Opera by Joel Schumacher (2004): adaptation of the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart, with Gerard Butler (how one so handsome plays a monster remains a mystery), Patrick Wilson and Emmy Rossum.
We have just mentioned four of them, but in reality more than 10 times as many have been shot.
And speaking of musicals, of all those made since 1949, the most famous is that of Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1986. Whose booklet “found” me in Ireland.
The musical by Lloyd Webber, focused on writing a more romantic piece than Leroux’s novel, to appeal more to the audience. Lloyd Webber also used accounts from within the novel in the musical, such as the fall of the chandelier.
When Andrew Lloyd Webber created the musical, there began to be disagreements as to whether it was “inspired by” or “based on” Gaston Leroux’s novel. Bill O’Connell, an assistant to the New York film producers, argued that the original author’s name was included in the book on which the musical is “based” rather than “inspired” because he saw the latter as an understatement of Leroux. . This was first produced in the mid-1980s and has continued to remain popular, still running on Broadway and the West End and spawning more touring productions. The musical has received more than fifty awards and is considered by many to be Broadway’s most popular musical.
Those who read us now know that we always wink a little at the world of music and we are no less this time.
The English heavy metal metal Iron Maiden included a song called “Phantom of the Opera”, based on the novel, on their 1980 debut album. A live recording was included as side B of the 1985 live single “Run to the Hills“, the cover of which features the mascot of the band Eddie as the Phantom.
Let’s take another heavy metal band, Iced Earth, who wrote a song called “The Phantom Opera Ghost”, released in 2001. The song is built around a shortened retelling of the story, with vocalist Matt Barlow in the role of the Ghost and Yunhui Percifield as Christina.
Power metal band HolyHell performed a live cover of “The Phantom of the Opera”, with Eric Adams of Manowar singing the part of the Phantom.
Staying on the heavy theme, also the Finnish Nightwish did a cover of the title track of the musical by Lloyd Webber. And the goth band Dreams of Sanity registered cover versions of the title track.
Legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan mentions The Phantom of the Opera in his song Desolation Row from the Highway 61 Revisited album. The Phantom is depicted in a dinner scene with Casanova.
There is even a techno version of the theme song for the 1992 Phantom of the Opera.
And, to conclude with a musical-cinematic gem, the a cappella band Moosebutter used the melody of “The Music of the Night” to tell the story of the film Psycho, in a song called “Psycho the Musical”.
Who do we still love The Phantom of the Opera?
The Phantom is called “the gayest super villain ever” by Homer Simpson, specifically Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version. Erik appears to be a recurring background character in The Simpsons. He has appeared in several episodes.
But why do we still love and quote The Phantom of the Opera today?
On the one hand, because we are talking about an ever-present theme, which is desire, sexuality, animality, even when it is a bit strange. Christine believes that the Phantom is an “angel of music” sent by her deceased father. In fact, she has lost her voice when her father dies and finds it thanks to the Phantom.
On the other hand, and this is the most important side and our lives are affected by, there is the theme of the mask. The mask not only hides, but allows us to socialize and, in some cases, makes us heroes (Batman rings a bell?)
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