The Phantom of the Opera (1986)

     by Andrew Lloyd Webber & Richard Stilgoe

          starring Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, & Steve 

            Barton

I can already hear people protesting that A.  Opinions on Andrew Lloyd Webber are split pretty much down the middle; on the one hand are the fans so rabid that they can infect woodland animals at thirty paces, and on the other hand those people who swear with great conviction and vehemence that the man is a talentless, over-publicized hack.  The latter group are no doubt cranky about this grade, which they will probably feel is undeserved, and the fans are cranky that I didn't invent a higher letter for this musical.

 

Everyone will just have to keep sending me emails full of argument about it like they've been doing for literally years now, because the A is staying. That A up there is for gorgeous music, outstanding performances, and lots of delicious symbolism.  You don't like it, you go write your own review.

 

As we've seen, there are more than a few versions of the Phantom story that predate this musical; however, the show became a massive international smash hit that won slews of awards and is currently the longest-running show on Broadway.  It has been made into a movie, adapted and stolen from by countless musical acts, and penetrated the collective unconscious to the point where your average American can see the half-mask logo and name the show even if they've never seen it and don't know who the composer is.  It's been translated into I don't know how many languages and is being performed all over the world, and as such it is the single most pervasive influence on following interpretations of the Phantom story.  And I do mean the most; much vaster numbers of people have seen or heard or know about this show than have ever read Leroux's novel, or in many cases even know it existed in the first place.

 

Part of the reason for this, of course, is that the music is lovely, and the staging is inventive and spectacular (many criticize the staging for being all about shock tactics and ultimately unbelievable, but due to the nature of the story and the undeniable effect it has on the audience, you can knock its artistic integrity but you can't ever say it doesn't work as intended).  The major reason for this, however, is that Lloyd Webber chose to go the opposite direction from the major (mostly Hollywood) interpretations done up to that point; rather than making it a horror story that focuses on Christine's plight, the terror inherent in the Phantom's grisly behavior, and the heroism of the beleaguered heroine's rescuers, Lloyd Webber makes a romance of the story.  The focus is not on the Phantom's madness or the fear in the opera house; it is on the tragic nature of the relationship between the Phantom and Christine, and the love story between Christine and Raoul.  While this has its drawbacks, just like the horror interpretation does, it leaves a lot more room for the themes of the original novel to survive.  It's hard to maintain a satisfying horror oeuvre when your villain gets redeemed in the end, but it fits right in for a tragic love story.

 

And make no mistake, this is a love triangle, not a story of the trials facing Raoul and Christine alone.  I believe I mentioned in the Lubin/Rains review that standard operatic practice dictates that the hero be sung as a tenor role, while the villain is generally a baritone; but while the Phantom is definitely the "villain" for most of the show, he is less a true villain than a tragic hero, and in reflection of that both Raoul and the Phantom are sung as tenor roles, casting doubt - at least in the mind of the opera-versed listener - upon who exactly is meant to ultimately be the hero figure.

 

It should also be noted that people whine a lot about how unoriginal Lloyd Webber is within this musical, in that he repeats the same musical phrases over and over and doesn't compose as many original tunes as the average musical-goer expects in one show.  I think some of this gripe is based on ignorance of opera form and the musical audience's being unused to attempting to digest it.  This isn't Cats, with a new song for every character and very few repeated themes; rather, several themes and motifs are repeated throughout the work, each used symbolically for particular ideas and all reinforcing their use through repetition.  It's an incredibly effective strategy and ties the piece together as a cohesive whole the way none of Lloyd Webber's other works are tied; it's hardly the only musical to have done so (Sondheim's Tony-winning Passion comes to mind, for example), but it is the only musical of Webber's to have done so, and thus often catches a lot of flak from those that consider themselves his fans.  Personally, I found the cohesive use of themes much, much more enjoyable than an endless succession of poppy tunes would have been.

 

Prologue:

 

The prologue is part of the rather peripheral conceit of Lloyd Webber's show, that the events in question happened some thirty or forty years ago (from the current time period, which is 1910ish), and that the entire story is a sort of memory sequence.  The show opens with a now-aged Raoul visiting an auction for relics found in the opera house cellars; it's intended to give us as audience members a sense of the time period or at least of age, but it seems sort of tacked on here and at the end, as though Lloyd Webber were unsure exactly how to ease audiences into his story. 

 

Here is also the first use of the repeated themes that will fill the musical, as discussed above; the music box for sale plays the theme from "Masquerade", which will not actually appear in the musical until the second act.  It is used here to jog Raoul's memory, and the theme itself has much the same function; wherever it appears in the musical, it is representative of the heyday of the Phantom's reign, of the joyous spectacle of the opera and its denizens and of the Phantom's benign, fatherly influence.  It is a joyful, nostalgic theme, and we'll hear it again several times.  Also making an appearance is the theme that will later be associated with "I Remember", played in the ghostly higher manual of an organ behind the dialogue; the theme is a dreamy one and is used to reinforce the Phantom's eerie, supernatural nature, and its use here gives the audience a chill even before they realize that it implies that the Phantom (or at least the memory of him) has control over the opera house even now, years after the tragic events. 

 

Raoul's few sung lines here are also on this "I Remember" theme, indicating that he is still affected by the Phantom's influence these many years hence.

 

It is also entertaining to note that the shattered chandelier is given the auction lot number 666, the supposed Number of the Beast in modern Christian theology; while there is no real occult influence in the show, the Phantom's metaphorical position as a soul condemned to Hell makes it appropriate, if cheesy.

 

Overture:

 

The Overture is, of course, wordless, but it speaks volumes nevertheless.  The heavy use of organ is obviously intended to evoke the Phantom's underground instrument, the one on which he composes; the prevalence and power of organ music throughout the score echoes the heavy, pervasive influence of the Phantom himself, whose power seems almost limitless within the confines of the opera house.  The organ arrangements themselves call up an image of the Phantom's character, as they juxtapose menacing, terrifying bass movement and florid, intricate upper manual work; that is, juxtaposing danger and genius, terror and beauty.

 

This is, of course, our first hearing of the theme that will be used for "The Phantom of the Opera", the title song of the musical; it will be used wherever Lloyd Webber wants to highlight the sinister, frightening qualities of the Phantom's presence, as opposed to the romantic ones.  The piece is intended above all to inspire fear, and the use of brass will also become associated almost exclusively with the Phantom's menace as the show progresses.

 

Think of Me:

 

"Think of Me" is one of several pieces that are performed within the performance - that is, as performances given by the cast of the opera house.  It establishes the character of Carlotta as a very credible singer, and changes the dynamic of the original tension between her voice and the Phantom's wishes slightly; while the Phantom makes several references throughout the show to how dismal he finds Carlotta's singing, the part as Lloyd Webber has written it is extremely difficult and requires a very versatile, incredibly talented soprano to pull off.  The change, therefore, is that Carlotta is not a washed-up or talentless singer, but rather that the Phantom favors Christine and wants Carlotta removed from the lead roles as a matter of expediency. 

 

This makes the Carlotta character more sympathetic, as she is under attack through no apparent fault of her own (she has a pretty difficult and overblown personality, true, but being continually attacked and threatened with replacement is liable to make anyone prickly to those they think responsible).  It should be noted here that Carlotta is Italian rather than Spanish, and that this representation of her will pretty much set every following version of the character in stone.

 

The use of "Think of Me" at the beginning of the opera is ironic, as it is really more applicable to the end; while it is used to encourage Raoul to remember his childhood with Christine, the lyrics are really better suited to Christine's eventual departure from the opera house, and in that light acquire a kind of bittersweet foreshadowing as she makes her triumphant debut.

 

We are also introduced to Madame Giry here; she is something of a catch-all for Lloyd Webber to combine all the small, incidental characters of Leroux's novel.  I'm not actually completely opposed to this "tightening up" of the novel's original cast; there are quite a few characters that wouldn't quite gel with this musical's story thoroughly, especially without time to really examine them, and the unnecessary cast members would have been hopelessly confusing for a theatre audience.  Of course, some characters are more "unnecessary" than others; I can basically forgive the replacement of La Sorelli, since Philippe is also not in this show and there wouldn't be much time to do anything with her, but as usual the long-suffering daroga has been booted out of yet another adaptation where he should have been able to shine.

 

Here she is seen replacing Sorelli as the ballet mistress of the opera house, a role that will allow her to be more involved in the action of the story; interestingly, her original role in the novel as the Phantom's box-keeper is completely removed, probably because it would have been hard to make it interesting or keep her involved in a stage context.  Giry's character has evolved to be more complex; the original, credulous and faithful box-keeper has been replaced by a woman who knows more than most about the Phantom's origins and movements, but who is as frightened of him as she is in awe of him.

 

The managers, who are presumably very busy men, seem a little bit too business-savvy to waste their time auditioning a chorus girl.  But, as in many other versions, Christine gets just a hair more preferential treatment than is necessarily warranted in the beginning.  Lloyd Webber will redeem himself for this later by letting the managers have an appropriately specious view of her behavior, so I just subside grumbling like the cranky, hibernating literature bear that I am.

 

We encounter Brightman's voice in the role of Christine first here, and it is no surprise that she is chosen to replace Carlotta.  She is uniquely suited to the role of Christine (no surprise there, as Lloyd Webber purportedly wrote it for her); she has the flexibility and power to sing an operatic role, but a softer, less classically-perfected sound that keeps musical audiences from becoming bored or being turned off.  She straddles pop and opera well enough to pull it off, no mean feat.

 

Raoul is here castin the role of a supplicant, as he hears Christine's voice, remembers her, and rushes off to make her reacquaintance.  As usual, the romance between these two characters is rushed; it's not quite realistic to assume that they fall head over heels for one another after not having seen each other for a decade or so, but we accept it as part of the willing suspension of disbelief (especially since we can ascribe their bond in part to their shared childhood memories).  It helps that Lloyd Webber's music is extremely emotional and compelling, and lends the characters more overt and relatable emotion than they would have on their own.  Interestingly, the "Think of Me" song could be construed as Christine rejecting Raoul, but the thought obviously never crosses either of their minds.

 

Angel of Music:

 

The Phantom's whispered chant of, "Bravi, bravi, bravissimi!" here always confuses me - not that he's congratulating Christine, but more that he appears to be speaking to her in particular while using the Italian vowel ending that indicates a plural.  Perhaps he is congratulating the entire cast, and I just misinterpreted; but it seems as though he's speaking to her, in which case the correct ending would be with an A: "Brava, brava, bravissima!"

 

Meg Giry gets a singing part here, and a more prominent role than she does in the novel; she covers both her part and Jammes', as well as a newly invented role as Christine's confidant, which allows her to function as a source of exposition for the audience without involving Raoul or the Phantom too much.  This isn't the most inventive way of letting Christine info-dump for the audience's benefit, but it gives Christine another lady to confide in and allows Raoul and the Phantom to remain separate, inviolate characters with little to no knowledge of one another, which helps keep them more contained and interesting as characters.

 

The main theme of the piece is played in a sweet-voiced violin before it is sung, which is of course intended to remind both Christine and the audience of Christine's father, the violinist; even if, in Lloyd Webber's version, the Phantom does not appear to have any particular ability with the violin, the soft, lovely strains seem to be symbolically generated by him as part of his nostalgic spell over her, and it's a nice homage to the original character.

 

Interestingly, Christine talks about her "angel", mentioning him to Meg, but is discounted out of hand as having been dreaming.  This both reinforces Christine's innocence, as she truly believes in her claim, and isolates her as a protagonist more effectively than if she had merely been hiding the truth and in imminent danger of discovery.  The first hint of fear from Christine comes here as well, as she says that she is frightened by always being watched, but it is more a gentle, timid fear evocative of her statement in the novel that the progress of her own voice frightens her than any visceral fear of danger.

 

Little Lotte/The Mirror:

 

Firstly, Raoul's behavior is all kinds of mad inappropriate.  Sweeping in and pushing his vicomtely ass in front of the managers, okay; I mean, he could just be displaying the arrogance of his station.  But locking himself in Christine's dressing room, alone, and telling everyone to go away?  You can bet every person in the opera house is whispering "OMG CHRISTINE AND RAOUL ARE SEXX0RING" within five minutes.  Which is probably fine for him, but you'd think he'd care a little bit about the reputation of his childhood friend and ostensible love interest.  What a dummy. I think, genuinely, he just doesn't actually realize what a problem he's creating, having never been in a position where it would apply to him.

 

And while we're on the subject of Raoul, some of the childhood memories they share seem odd - playing at picnics in the attic, for example.  Not that children don't do that sort of thing, but the class divide between the two of them would have made such prolonged and idyllic childhood pursuits unlikely.  I wish more time had been spent on their backstory, so we could find out how their families knew one another and how they overcame that social divide.

 

The two men are clearly delineated by their attendant musical motifs; Raoul is represented by soft, high music, indicative of his connection to a more innocent time and relationship, while the Phantom is accompanied by rumbling drums and low, ominously registered instruments, representative of the danger he poses and the somewhat primal nature of his relationship with Christine.

 

The implication here is that the teaching arrangement between Christine and the Phantom has been in place for some time; while there is no explicit explanation of the time frame, we are given the impression that it is not a new situation.  Christine is utterly devoted to the Phantom's teachings and discipline; it seems reasonable to theorize that the arrival of Raoul is the catalyst that pushes the Phantom to change their relationship, rushing to solidify his claim upon Christine before the interloper can come between them.

 

The speed of the transition between Christine's "Angel of Music" and the duet "The Phantom of the Opera" suggests that Christine is aware that her "angel" and the Phantom are one and the same, but shortly thereafter her actions and exclamations later in the piece will all point to her being confused or out of the know when it comes to the man and his different faces.  It's a bothersome contradiction that yanked me out of the narrative more often than I would have liked. I'm pretty sure we're supposed to handwave it away with, "you know, hypnosis and stuff".

 

The Phantom of the Opera:

 

The double usage of the word "angel" in this song is clever; it refers both to the Phantom, who is Christine's "angel" of music, and also to Christine, who with her divine voice, innocence of heart, and role as bringer of salvation is an "angel" in her own right.  It may be further stretched to include the Phantom's status as fallen angel, as frequent references are made to his existence in Hell, severed from Heaven.  In this case, the label applies to him as a sort of Lucifer figure, while Christine's "angel" status cements her as unattainably above him.

 

Christine is a soprano role, and the majority of her music is written in the middle to upper registers; her drop here to the lower, heavier throat part of her voice is representative of her literal descent into the underworld with the Phantom, and also of a drop into an unfamiliar sensuality and danger with him as well.  The Phantom is just as much a symbolic sexual figure in this musical as he is in the original novel, but much more overtly and even literally; where Leroux's Phantom just represented ideas of creative force and forbidden pleasure, Lloyd Webber's is pretty determined to literally be a sexual being competing for Christine's corporeal existence as well as her spiritual one.

 

The sudden switch of the instrumentation from a mostly pure orchestral flavor to a slightly harder-edged, more modern rock sound could be obnoxious (and in some of Lloyd Webber's other works, it definitely is); however, as it is used only in this transitioning period, it serves instead to clearly separate the worlds above and below- opera house and underground kingdom of the Phantom - appropriately.

 

The Phantom's role as sole ruler of his domain is here furthered by his expressed desire for power; he is a jealous king, worried about his power over what he considers his possessions (including Christine, unfortunately), and needing to not only secure her love but also her obedience.  Possibly he is unable to conceive of a relationship that does not involve a certain degree of control; and in any case, he considers the entire opera house his domain, which makes Christine one of his subjects by nature, as bound to obey him as the managers.  The conflict of the narrative is partially rooted in the question of which world Christine truly inhabits: whether she is a creature of the opera house, and thus subject to the Phantom, or a part of the outside world which rejects him.

 

The ghostly voices that back up the two principle singers both enhance the mystical, otherworldly quality of the scene, while also suggesting that the entire state may be a kind of dream.  The repeated motif of dreams will gain more and more significance as the piece continues.

 

The repeated phrase asserting that the Phantom is "inside [Christine's] mind" has a not particularly subtle sexual connotation - a metaphor for sexuality that implies she has been deflowered mentally already, if not physically.  Following that theme, the final high C she sings, after being exhorted passionately by the Phantom to sing for him, has a distinctly orgasmic quality to it.

 

Christine's jump back to the very high soprano register for the end of the song returns her to angel status, but now an angel under the Phantom's power, exactly as he envisions; while he will sadly (for him) never achieve the same balance in dynamics between them again, for a few moments she is a transcendent angel that obeys his whims, a tenuous connection to the Heaven that is denied him.

 

As the song ends, the theme that will later be associated with the Phantom's opera, Don Juan Triumphant, is used for a moment as the Phantom introduces his domain; as in the original novel, the Phantom is a mirror-reversed Don Juan, condemned to Hell but reaching for Heaven.  He sees himself as the ruler not only of his domain but of all music, which is his subject through the prodigious, unparalleled genius of his musical talent.

 

Music of the Night:

 

The sudden switch from the grandstanding "The Phantom of the Opera" to the soft romance of this piece is surprising, but not shocking given the slightly out-of-phase nature of the Phantom himself.  The language is vastly sensual, with words such as "senses", "helpless", "defenseless", "tender", "sense", "intoxication", "sensation", and "touch" abounding.  The entire song is a seduction, a sweet and gentle one at odds with the Phantom's earlier behavior, in which he woos Christine with the only beauty at his disposal: his music.  Christine, in turn, is utterly spellbound, and the song is the metaphorical equivalent of lovemaking between the devoted musician and his beautiful muse, even if the staging leaves the question of actual physical intimacy ambiguous.

 

Even as he seduces Christine, the Phantom warns her that music is a sort of mask; it is an extended metaphor for the subterfuge he must always be party to.

 

The repetitive comparison of the scene to a dream both enhances the spellbound behavior of both participants, and the Phantom's position as outsider; even here as it is happening, the idea of Christine being with him belongs to the realm of fantasy rather than reality. Only through the proxies of dreams (fantasies) and music (the act of creation, of love) can the Phantom truly experience love with the woman that he longs for, but is irrevocably set beneath. He has some problems with envisioning himself as being a real person.

 

Magical Lasso:

 

It's a short piece, barely more than an incidental, but it features the ill-fated Buquet, so I thought I'd include it.  The description he gives of the Phantom jibes with that in Leroux's original novel in many particulars, especially the noselessness (the actual Phantom is seldom made up to look noseless, but it's very hard to achieve that effectively onstage), but much of his description seems very romanticized, as though the Phantom's reputation were less fearsome in this version than it usually is.  Considering that the vast majority of the cast is scared stiff of him, we must assume that this is a disrespect peculiar to Buquet only.

 

It is Madame Giry, of course, that intervenes and tells Buquet to be quiet; in many ways she is still fulfilling her role as box keeper, but on a grander scale (i.e., the entire opera house rather than only Box 5).

 

I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It:

 

Christine's assertion that she remembers a man in the boat with her is interesting in that she has previously believed him to be not a man but her "angel", a supernatural, heavenly guardian.  It may be the beginning of her suspicion that the Phantom is not the celestial friend promised by her father, but her gentle credulity and the "Angel of Music" theme playing on a soft violin in the background - again, evocative of memories of her father - make it clear that there is still doubt in her mind.

 

The Greek myth imagery so popular in most myths is mostly absent from Lloyd Webber's version, but he makes a passing reference here when the Phantom calls Christine a "Pandora" for her curiosity, comparing her to the mythic story of the woman whose curiosity accidentally unleashed all the ills and evils of the world. The comparison is apt - she has removed the mask, effectively transforming the Phantom from the gentle lover to the hideous monster - but it's interesting to ponder the fact that Pandora in her myth was very much set up and intended to do what she did, thanks to the god Zeus wanting to use her as a vehicle to punish mankind, and that the Phantom might have likewise subconsciously pushed her or at least created her opportunity himself.

 

If Lloyd Webber seems uninterested in the Greek mythological symbolism, he certainly goes to town on the biblical references.  The entire work is filled with reference to a division of divinity and damnation strikingly similar to - and often outright compared to - the Christian conception of Heaven and Hell.  In this particular scene, the Phantom calls Christine a "Delilah", a reference to the temptress of the Old Testament who doomed and enslaved her lover by taking away his hair, the source of his strength; an obvious corollary to her having removed his mask and taken his veneer of gentility and beauty from him.  He also calls her a "viper", which may be interpreted as a reference to the snake that caused the exile of Adam and Eve from paradise by encouraging Eve's curiosity. (Or else he's just calling her a poisonous snake in this case, but there's a lot of Bible going on here, is what I'm saying.)

 

We see for the first time in this scene the Phantom's utter self-loathing and self-recrimination; he compares his lonely domain to Hell, from which he can never escape to the Heaven Christine inhabits, being permanently shunned by the society above which rejects him.  He considers himself capable of goodness, but he is flawed by virtue of being trapped in his hideous body, a beastly monster from which there is no escape; it is this deformity that both compels him to commit murder and has made him an outcast from mankind.  Interestingly, nowhere in the show does he seem to connect that the murders would have the same effect; he may believe is that were he not cursed, he would not be committing them, allowing him to blame his sins on something outside himself.

 

The Phantom also first refers here to the opera house as his theater, which will shortly be revealed to be a very important facet of his character.

 

Notes:

 

Lloyd Webber's very clever here; while the average information and exposition dump makes me cringe, this one is done by employing the managers in a singularly operatic style, which has the effect of lampooning the way that many operas tend to pack far too much exposition into recitative in order to move the story forward.  The move from hackneyed device to mocking said hackneyed device elevates the scene to a worthwhile and entertaining parody of itself.  The entire scene, in fact, is more than a parody of exposition but an overall parody of operatic conventions themselves, from the silliness and overblown drama of the productions to the divalicious nonsense going on backstage as artistic egos do battle.  Especially since it's true to the time period, it's great fun to watch Webber poke fun at the operatic stereotypes and overwrought behavior.

 

Lloyd Webber's Phantom makes a significant deviation from the original; while Leroux's Phantom was a shadowy figure in the opera house, sole sovereign of the underground but content to watch the performances above and occasionally change a detail here and there, Lloyd Webber's Phantom regards himself outright as the owner of the opera house, its ultimate god in terms of what is allowed to occur.  His kingdom is not merely the twisted passages of the cellars and lake, but all of the opera house and its attendant performers; he is not a blackmailer, as in Leroux, but more of a grand director overseeing all aspects of the place in an almost fatherly (albeit a very stern, demanding father) manner.  His criticisms and suggestions for performances and the general running of the opera are frequent and detailed, in contrast to Leroux's Phantom, who was content to ignore the workings of the theater as long as his stipend and freedoms were not infringed upon (until, of course, he decided to install Christine as lead soprano, but the very climactic nature of events and the surprise and shock of the rest of the opera house make it clear that this had never happened before, despite the Phantom's many years of residence; Lloyd Webber's Phantom has obviously been running the show the entire time). 

 

The behavior of the Phantom is accordingly different; in contrast to the Leroux character, who brazenly showed himself to the managers and opera-goers on occasion in order to reinforce his reign of fear and make sure that a healthy level of respect was maintained, Lloyd Webber's Phantom goes to great lengths not to be seen or contacted by anyone except Christine.  Lloyd Webber's Phantom is not concerned with keeping his subjects in line unless they disobey, as a true ruler does not question his ability to rule, but he is rather concerned almost exclusively with the performances of his opera company; he is not worried about the people in his opera house, but is focused entirely upon using them, like instruments, to make the most beautiful music possible.  He is the ultimate composer, and this vision of him is another example of Lloyd Webber's softer, more romantic view of the Phantom - not actually any nicer as a person, but seeking a more romantic set of goals.

 

The letter that Raoul receives from the Phantom here, warning him to stay away from Christine, marks the only time in the entire show that the Phantom ventures outside the sphere of the opera house and its denizens, even if only in writing.  It is accordingly implied that the matter of Christine is enough to make the Phantom push his own boundaries, which of course brings up again the question of who exactly has the most control over whom.

 

Lloyd Webber wins back points with me here and in the upcoming "Prima Donna" by adding an element of realism missing from many interpretations: namely, he makes note of the class divide present between Raoul, the vicomte, and Christine, the lowly chorus girl.  The managers and Carlotta are perfectly cognizant of this divide, and make natural assumptions about the sexual nature of Raoul's relationship with Christine and the probable attempt at status-climbing that Christine may be engaging in.  It's a small thing, but it irks me that so many versions make no mention of it; even Lloyd Webber, who can be quite truthfully accused of gilding this story to within an inch of its life, is not oblivious to the ugly realities of the societal strata involved.  Since one of the original novel's core themes was the painful divisions and exclusions of French society, leaving the matter entirely out of any retelling of the story is pretty much removing one of the largest reasons for the Phantom's discontent.

 

The invented opera Il Muto that is put on by the cast (it will be performed later, but is first mentioned here) is more self-aware parody, specifically of the overly florid and madly dramatic airs favored by classical opera of Mozart's era.  On a more serious note, however, the title (which is Italian for "The Mute") of the opera is a play on the concepts of speech and silence throughout the piece; Christine being cast as the mute despite her lovely voice is a microcosm for the Phantom's situation, paralleling the fact that despite having the greatest musical talent of the age, he is effectively "mute" or silenced by his deformity, which will not allow him to share his "voice" with the rest of society.  A relatively banal singer like Carlotta (who in this symbolic context may even be viewed as an analogue of Raoul), who is socially acceptable, can take center stage the way an incredibly beautiful singer (Christine, and the Phantom in the broader sense) may not for fear of public censure.  It is a great tragic oxymoron, that the Phantom's transcendent musical artistry is rendered mute by nothing more than his unfortunate face. It also makes it pretty clear that he's not going to take the situation very well.

 

Prima Donna:

 

This song is primarily comic, a continuation of the parodying of opera forms that has already done so well in the "Notes" song.  The major target of its mockery is of course the diva herself - specifically Carlotta, but in a general sense really the entire convention of the star leading lady with the reputation for difficult behavior.  In a sense, he is even mocking Leroux's work, which sets Christine upon a sometimes ridiculously high pedestal.

 

The gigantic vocal quintet in which all the characters sing different and often opposing lyrics is extremely reminiscent of the gigantic vocal orgies of the classical comic operas; Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro comes to mind for me, with the great quintets and sextets at the ends of acts.  The attention to operatic detail makes the entire piece that much more interesting for the opera lover, even if most of it is of course musical theatre in nature.

 

As before, the Phantom is accompanied by ominous bass and organ as he makes his pronouncements, underscoring the threat he poses to... well, to pretty much everybody.

 

Poor Fool He Makes Me Laugh (Il Muto):

 

As already mentioned, Lloyd Webber's little comic opera within the musical is an extreme and hilarious parody of classical opera conventions.  Interesting (if not particularly subtle) to note is that Christine's mute character is named Serafimo, which literally means "seraphim", one of the biblical orders of angels.  It's not very subtle to name her "angel", but it's a cute nod to those in the audience with enough religious background to know what it means.

 

As noted before, the Phantom plays a much more active role in the opera house in Lloyd Webber's version, and his gleeful destruction of the performance is one of the most confrontational moments he displays; it is directly opposed to the Leroux version of events, in which the Phantom whispered to the managers to let them know that he was responsible, but did not otherwise make a scene of things (at least from his personal viewpoint).  This ties into the Phantom's new role as grand director of the opera house, rather than an outsider lurking within it.

 

As in the Lubin/Rains film, the original novel's use of ventriloquism is replaced by a drug; while it takes a bit away from the Phantom's omnipotent power to rob him of that talent, it makes sense in a stage context as it would be very difficult to show a stage audience ventriloquism in an engaging or understandable manner.  Carlotta's abrupt inability to sing is still directly and obviously attributable to the Phantom, so little is lost in the change.

 

Lloyd Webber's music is often extremely simplistic, one of the things that can annoy a listener or drive a critic to despair, but in a classical opera setting it is appropriate.  His use of a simple accelerando during the ballet scene to mount the tension until it erupts into violence is more subtle and effective than jumping in with the bass and horns would have been (though he does plenty of that in other places in the musical, don't get me wrong).

 

Why Have You Brought Me Here:

 

The entirety of this song is a transposed reiteration of the "The Phantom of the Opera" theme, which imparts a sense of urgency and imminent danger to the proceedings, as well as reminding us of Christine's metaphorical sexual awakening and the fear it inspired in her, now juxtaposed with Raoul's comforting, undemanding presence.

 

At first glance I questioned why Christine would immediately assume that the Phantom was going to kill her, considering that he has taught her in secret for quite some time and did not harm her when she was completely in his power. After thinking about it for a bit, I think it's probably a combination of normal human survival reflex - we all tend to panic when we see dead people and try really hard not to become dead ourselves - and a very reasonable idea that the Phantom has clearly gone off the deep end and all bets on safety are off.

 

Christine's fear of the Phantom has been entrenched since her removal of his mask, at which point her "angel" was transformed into a hideous beast; she is at the fundamental level a child who is afraid of the monster that is coming to get her, senselessly and without the ability to reason as to its motives.  Yet, despite this obvious and overwhelming fear, the Phantom's sensual influence is still very much in her; she regresses and sings a beautiful snatch of the "Music of the Night" theme, in which she makes it clear that despite his general horribleness she is captivated by his words and voice. 

 

For the Phantom, and in a broader sense for Christine and everyone else in the show (whether they sing themselves or are transported by the singing of another, usually the Phantom or Christine), the voice is the means by which the soul may transcend the ugliness of the body.  Christine is trapped between the hideousness that she perceives in his face and actions, and the beauty of his voice and words.  When she sings the line, "...in his eyes all the sadness of the world, those pleading eyes that both threaten and adore..." she neatly encapsulates the dual nature of the Phantom, whose threatening, angry violence is always opposed to his gentle, longing love.  The latter is of course emphasized more by Lloyd Webber than it ever was by Leroux, as Lloyd Webber is seeking to create a romance and a love triangle rather than a simple horror story.

 

All I Ask of You:

 

"All I Ask of You" is the love theme for the relationship between Raoul and Christine; interestingly enough, it begins with the same five-note motif that ends "Music of the Night", a small but telling musical indication that Christine is abandoning her strange love affair with the Phantom in favor of a new one with Raoul.  Additionally, the almost mass-like horns suggest a requiem, which can be easily applied to the Phantom, who is even at that moment powerlessly watching his love slip away and beginning to slip himself into the grief-stricken fury which will dominate his actions for the remainder of the story.

 

The lyrics of "All I Ask of You" are in direct opposition to those of "Music of the Night", intentionally placing Raoul and the Phantom at opposite poles just as they are in Leroux's novel.  Where the Phantom urged acceptance and enjoyment of the pleasures of the night, Raoul rejects the ideas of darkness and fear in favor of brighter ideas, such as safety, calm, shelter, and light.  Where the Phantom begged Christine to submit herself to him, to belong to him, Raoul instead urges her to step free of bonds to others.  The obvious stated conflict, between danger (the Phantom) and safety (Raoul), is only icing to conceal the much weightier one of risk and passion versus tranquility.

 

Even for Raoul, however, Christine remains the focal point rather than his own desires (which are, of course, perforce innocent ones).  In the end, Christine chooses the safety and security that Raoul and his station provide; not only because that's the "sensible" thing to do, but because she genuinely loves him and wants to be free of the terror the Phantom represents in.

 

All I Ask of You (Reprise):

 

The sprightly, joyous "Masquerade" theme makes another appearance here as Christine and Raoul leave with their newfound resolve (and the listener should note as well that here is the only time in the show that Raoul sings, "I love you," to Christine; both he and the Phantom will say it only once each), but it is quickly squelched by the Phantom's agonized reprisal of the "All I Ask of You" theme.  The gentle strings of Raoul's version are replaced by a sustained ominous low cello/basso note over which the Phantom's voice soars in profound loneliness, musically echoing his symbolic abandonment by the one person with whom he has ever shared a connection; when the strings to join his voice, they are all played poignantly in their lower octaves.

 

The Phantom plays a dual role as both father and lover when it comes to Christine, and his first reaction is that of a betrayed father rather than a jilted lover; he laments that his teaching is what gave Christine the very tool with which she lured Raoul (her voice).  Immediately following this revelation, the distant sounds of Raoul and Christine reprising their duet - clearly a euphemistic moment referring to their probably being engaged in affectionate embrace at that moment - the grief snaps and he turns to rage, which will characterize his behavior for the rest of the show.

 

Entr'acte:

 

The "Entr'acte" is of course the play-in for the second act, but Lloyd Webber uses it here to function as an aural recap of the story so far; it begins with a sprightly reiteration of the "Angel of Music" theme, moves into a darkly romantic rendition of "Music of the Night", then into a soft repetition of "All I Ask of You" before thundering to a close with the ominously bombastic strains of "The Phantom of the Opera", recalling the Phantom's rage at the end of the last act so that the audience is once more confronted with the immediacy of the story.

 

Masquerade:

 

Percussion plays a large role in this song, whose main theme we've heard several times in the show already but have not yet really had explored for us.  The drums and various other percussion instruments give the piece a sense of grandeur and splendor that is appropriate for the grand spectacle that the entire scene presents.

 

The masquerade ball and its accompanying song is one gigantic metaphor for the human condition; while we have always had the overt example of the Phantom's mask to ponder, the implication that all people wear figurative masks, and the implied question of whether they are any more or less honest than the Phantom himself, becomes considerable.  Here everyone wears a mask, and glories in the freedom the anonymity presents.  The Phantom's loneliness is highlighted by this childish delight, as he alone among the guests cannot return to a normal life once the novelty wears off; it is a cruel mockery of his condition to watch the general public indulge in the anonymity he is eternally condemned to.  Anonymity plays a large role in the characterization of Lloyd Webber's Phantom: of all versions, Lloyd Webber's is unusual in that it never uses the Phantom's name (Erik), rather referring to him only by his nom de plume.  This namelessness both reinforces the Phantom's exiled status, and heightens the mystery surrounding him, making him more of a mythical figure than a man.

 

The Phantom makes his re-entry here after falling off the map for about six months since the end of act one; the time lag helps to build up a sense of security and gives Raoul and Christine room for their relationship to have grown, but it also makes me wonder about general practicalities.  Such as: what has the Phantom been living on, if the managers haven't been paying him?  Did he get some kind of job where he wouldn't be seen?  Maybe he has savings squirreled away somewhere, or Madame Giry is lending him a stipend.

 

Raoul and Christine have progressed to the point of having secretly agreed to marry, which they let us know through a mutedly happy reiteration of the "Think of Me" theme, evoking their childhood romance once again.  It is a real engagement, unlike the "pretend" engagement the two play at in Leroux's novel; this change makes more sense for a current audience, but still changes the dynamic more than a little.  For one thing, the recognition of class boundaries that I just praised Lloyd Webber for a few paragraphs ago (way to make me look like a jackass, Lloyd Webber, thanks) is now entirely absent, and will never again be mentioned as the two appear to be headed for a life of primroses and sunshine once they get married despite the very real societal disapproval and difficulty they would have encountered. It also makes Christine a much more decisive person at that moment, though, committing to a real engagement instead of the pretend engagement that she chose in the novel out of fear of the Phantom's reaction.

 

The dizzying, increasingly complex melismas and note sequences of the "Masquerade" orchestral parts are evocative of a maze, an appropriate aural image as Christine is surrounded by masks, each one more reminiscent of the Phantom than the last.  Despite the time gone by and the intervening, calming influence of Raoul, Christine is shown to be still very much under the Phantom's control, or at least still beholden to him in some mental or emotional manner.

 

Brass is usually reserved for the Phantom in this show, and the sudden use of it near the end of "Masquerade" is just a quick bit of foreshadowing, which is borne out moments later when the Phantom makes his grand entrance as the Red Death.

 

Why So Silent:

 

The Phantom enters to the ominous brass blare of the "The Phantom of the Opera" theme, which is quickly replaced by low, dread-inducing scrapes of the cellos and basses that echo his measured, menacing tread.  One little quibble I have with Lloyd Webber's handling of this scene is that the reference to the Red Death is not really explicated or remarked upon overmuch; while the readers of Leroux's novel were perfectly familiar with the popular Edgar Allen Poe tale from which the character is borrowed, modern-day theatre-goers may not be.  The scene can be perfectly understood and enjoyed without any idea what the Phantom is dressed up as beyond the ominous reds, blacks and skull-like mask, of course, but the extra level of allegory is lost, and I would have liked to see it kept in there for its poignancy.

 

"Why So Silent" is a faithful reiteration of the theme first heard in "I Remember", and the relationship lends it a greater sense of foreboding; the first time it was used was as a prelude to the unmasking of the Phantom, which had tragic results for Christine.  The suspense of hearing it again prepares the audience for the terrible revelations to come.

 

Leroux readers will of course immediately note that the Phantom's opera, Don Juan Triumphant, was never shown to or played for anyone in the original novel; even when Christine asks to hear it, the Phantom informs her that it is too powerful for her, not meant for her or any of the other plebian denizens of the opera house to hear.  The original Phantom also asserts that he will die upon completion of the opera, which is his life's work and a masterpiece of unparalleled genius, but here the situation is comparable; Lloyd Webber's Phantom, in throwing down the gauntlet here, has begun the slide to his own demise (at least symbolically) just as surely as if he had committed suicide.

 

Notes (Reprise):

 

The outrage over Don Juan Triumphant is less difficult to comprehend than might be expected.  It is very much a modern opera, employing dissonances and quarter tones, modal shifts and clashing harmonies that are harsh even to our ears today; the average audience now isn't overly fond of the music, but a nineteenth-century audience would have felt downright assaulted, and certainly appalled.  This works both to reestablish the Phantom in our minds as a genius well ahead of his time (this sort of opera wouldn't be popularized until well into the next century, and even today it doesn't have nearly the sort of popularity or fanbase that classical and verismo operas do) and to further his aura of menacing power, as the hellish music very effectively encourages the audience toward awe and not a little fear.

 

A confrontation finally takes place between Carlotta and Christine here, rather than through the proper channels and intermediaries as has been the case for most of the rest of the show (another example of Lloyd Webber paying attention to the conventions of the time, thank heavens).  The fact that Christine initiates it out of outrage shows her very clearly to be both the younger, less experienced party, since Carlotta would never have addressed someone she would have considered an underling directly.

 

The reiteration of the "Stranger Than You Dreamt It" theme is used to menacing purpose as the Phantom at turns threatens and cajoles Christine to return to his tutelage; however, the reuse of the Phantom's earlier pleading, self-loathing song also underscores his desperation to regain Christine's love and companionship in spite of himself.

 

The plot to capture the Phantom is, of course, completely invented for Lloyd Webber's version (as opposed to the original Leroux, in which Christine and Raoul simply disappear and are never heard from again); Lloyd Webber's very concrete, human Phantom may be easily pursued via mundane means, while the addition of a war for Raoul to fight mano a mano with the Phantom adds a sudden extra dynamic of helplessness to Christine's character, as she is demoted from angelic object of admiration to a mere prize to be won. (Of course, she's no such thing, but clearly that doesn't always translate to audiences.)

 

Indeed, as Christine agonizes over her choice, she sings a snatch of the earlier "Little Lotte" theme, signifying her regression into childhood and defenselessness.  Carlotta believes Christine to be mad because of the terrified way in which she is muttering to herself; it is a moment in which the price of the dual life she has been leading is finally laid out.  The cost of living in the Phantom's splendid, lonely underground kingdom is a touch of the same inability to function upstairs, and Christine is no more exempt from this than he is; eventually, as we already know she will, she chooses the daylight world rather than subject herself to it.

 

Twisted Every Way:

 

Christine is often regarded as flighty by audiences because of the borderline breakdown she suffers at the end of this song, but the psychological stress is considerable. Raoul, whose character has until now been almost exclusively gentle and undemanding, all but forces her into his scheme to capture the Phantom; not only is the action difficult for her conscience and divided heart to handle, but Raoul forcing her into a course of action is a profound shock to her.  Raoul's character is revealed to at last have some motivational verve, but unfortunately for Christine it is all focused upon defeating the Phantom; while he believes that he is acting in her best interests and intends to let no harm come to her, she still perceives the situation as terrifying.

 

Interestingly, when Raoul tells Christine that all their hopes lie on her, he does so to a soft, subdued repetition of the "Prima Donna" theme, symbolizing both that Christine is still the central figure of the drama around whom all actions revolve, and to a lesser degree that she is no more in control of events than Carlotta is in control of the workings of the opera house. This is not strictly accurate, though; Christine is probably the only person with ultimate control over this story, as will become obvious my the end.

 

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again:

 

This is the only theme in the entire show that is never repeated or used in another song.  This is fitting, because it is a closure song that symbolizes Christine's finally setting her childhood to rest and moving on into adulthood.

 

The graveyard scene (moved to much later in the narrative, but otherwise mostly intact) takes on greater significance in Lloyd Webber's version in that Christine believes that the Phantom may actually be her father, a possibility she cherishes alongside the theory that he is an angel sent by her father (the two are functionally the same, as either way he is the only avenue of contact with her beloved dead father).  The repeated orphan imagery is oddly much stronger for Christine's character, here and elsewhere in the narrative, than it is for the Phantom, the ultimate orphan; possibly, Lloyd Webber felt that in order for the Phantom to function effectively as a father figure, he could not have too pronounced a parenting issue of his own.

 

The highly charged language and references having to do with dreams appear again; as they were in "Music of the Night", the dreams are representative of happiness, but in this case Christine finally chooses to reject them, and by extension reject or forever cease to worry about both her father and the father figure (the Phantom) with whom she replaced him.  Christine seeks freedom from her past, but even as she declares it finished, she is inexorably drawn back in to the Phantom.

 

Wandering Child/Bravo Monsieur:

 

The Phantom is here at his most welcoming and fatherly, calling to Christine with the nostalgic "Angel of Music" theme and offering safety and surcease from confusion.  It's an interesting direction for him to take, as it is usually Raoul offering safety while the Phantom enacts a seduction.  The lyrics are especially interesting here as Christine questions the Phantom's identity thusly: "Angel or father?  Friend or Phantom?"  The apparent parallels - that the angel is equated with the friend, and the father with the Phantom - suggest that Christine is aware, on some level, that the Phantom is a surrogate father figure for her.

 

She's not the only one being uncomfortably aware of things.  Raoul is perfectly cognizant here, to his chagrin, of Christine's helpless attraction to the Phantom; his horrified asides and despairing cries are interjections only, not true parts of the song.  He is an interloper in their transcendent duet, adding to its poignancy but unable to effect any real change or division between the two musical forces, whose harmony is beyond his limited scope (as elsewhere in Lloyd Webber's musical, music is equated with transcendence; as the non-musical party in the scene, Raoul has a much harder time attempting to convince Christine of anything).  He is understandably kind of threatened by this.

 

When the duet is broken up, however, the "The Phantom of the Opera" theme thunders back to life along with a violent explosion of brass, signifying that things are about to get nasty.  The Phantom declares "war" on both of them, but he will be revealed to be unable to truly attempt harm on Christine; he wants to punish her infidelity, but his infatuation with her is too powerful to allow him to take his vengeance on her.

 

Don Juan Triumphant:

 

The Phantom's opera is finally performed, and it is a grand spectacle, a living representation of the Phantom's underground kingdom finally brought up to light.  The fires and demons of hell, the rampant death imagery all emphasize his place as ruler of the underworld, while the Don Juan role of master seducer with servants but no equals is clearly meant to represent the Phantom, who is master of the entire opera house's self-contained universe.  The Don's line "Stealing what in truth is mine" is a marvelously brazen statement of his attitude toward the entire opera house, which he views as his possession and demesne.

 

Christine's role, Aminta, is utter innocence in the midst of Hell; it is the Phantom's honeyed vision of her as an angelic, pure creature.  The earlier lyrics sung by the demonic chorus threaten that innocence, especially the reference to the winding sheet, which symbolizes both death and deflowerment.

 

The Point of No Return:

 

The Phantom finally brings his sexuality into the open; while he prefers the singularity and anonymity of his midnight kingdom, he is willing to bring his passion to light for her, partially as a response to Raoul's challenge, but also because he realizes that light and freedom from secrecy is one of the things attracting her to Raoul in the first place.

 

Again the dream language makes an appearance; the song is a repetition of the sexual themes and seduction of "Music of the Night", but now a forceful, demanding seduction rather than the original gentle appeal.  The Phantom demands that Christine choose him, and, surprisingly, she does.

 

Despite the Phantom's demands, his overpowering love for Christine will not allow him, in the end, to force her or simply mindlessly seduce her.  Ultimately, he begs her to love him, to save him; he is cognizant of his need for salvation, thirsty for it, which makes her on-stage betrayal of him all the more painful.

 

Down Once More:

 

Piangi's death is added for this musical; it has little more purpose than to add to the Phantom's monstrousness, probably to counteract the sympathy we just felt for his betrayal at Christine's hands in order to allow him to remain frightening enough for the final chase scene.

 

Madame Giry, great character amalgamation that she is, also plays the daroga's role as the only person with any knowledge of the Phantom's background, and as partial guide for Raoul.  Unlike the daroga, however, she is determined to stay well away from the Phantom himself; the awe her character always displays for him is more like the original Madadme Giry.

 

This entire song features no new material, instead being a melange of earlier themes.  The Phantom begins with a twisted, tortured version of "Music of the Night", appropriate as he feels he has just been betrayed by his love, before transitioning to the running theme of "Why Have You Brought Me Here?", underscoring their headlong flight underground.

 

The most important question for the Phantom is, tellingly, the why of it all; as far as he's concerned, everything he's done has been for love of Christine, either to further her career, protect her, or show her his devotion.  Because he's slightly out of touch with the normal, nonstalker side of humanity, he doesn't realize that this has been done in such a way as to drive her away, instead believing that Raoul's influence is to blame for her defection.  Thus, it is an incredible shock to him to be betrayed by her on her own, and the anguish and bewildered confusion of his pleading with her to explain is especially poignant because the audience understands, but also knows that he does not.

 

The themes come dizzingly quickly but always recognizable as the Phantom tells his tragic tale of childhood and isolation, beginning with the ominous "The Phantom of the Opera" to represent his twisted, evil state now, then moving through the "Don Juan Triumphant" to underscore his belief that Fate or God has condemned him both to isolation and sorrow and to the anger and murder that has accompanied it for him.  He believes his face to be an "infection" - a modernization of Leroux's Phantom believing he had been cursed or damned, but with the same functional result.  It's worthwhile to note that the Phantom does not attempt to "punish" Christine again; his self-loathing is so great that he can conceive of no greater punishment for her than for her to be trapped with him for the rest of her life.

 

The "Music of the Night" theme makes a pitiful, quiet return as the Phantom talks about his miserable life and the fact that he has never known a mother's love; the use of the love theme is intentional, as Christine serves for the Phantom as both lover and mother figure.

 

I have never quite understood Raoul's purpose in charging into the dungeon and demanding that the Phantom free Christine because "I love her, does that mean nothing? I love her!"  I mean, shouting at a guy who is hopelessly obsessed with your fiancee that he should leave her alone because you love her seems sort of counterproductive to me.  I'm usually inclined just to think something general about Raoul's naivete and understandably hysterical state here, but as I mentioned it, John put forth his own theory from across the room where he was immersed in World of Warcraft: he said that from Raoul's point of view, as the scene in the novel where Christine explains the Phantom's love for her has been removed, the Phantom is just a dangerous, maniacal murderer with no particular fixation specifically on Christine.  He doesn't know about the years of meddling with her, or about the "Music of the Night" seduction scene, or about the Phantom's assidious care of Christine and her voice since childhood.  All he knows is that the Phantom noticed Christine and her voice and kidnapped her, which wouldn't be a huge stretch for him as he's also head over heels for her and it would seem natural to him that she would be a first choice for abduction.  He is therefore pleading with the Phantom, one man to another, to let his love go, all unknowing that the Phantom, too, has been in love with her for quite a while before he arrived to reunite with his childhood love.  From the mouths of random WoW-playing dudes.

 

By the time the Phantom has restrained Raoul and is howling that the point of no return has been reached, he is right.  Christine is being forced to confront an ultimatum; she must choose, once and for all, the dark, passionate love of the underground or the sweet, comforting love of the world above.  Even as he is threatening to kill Raoul, Christine still appeals to her "angel"; just like in the novel, the loss of her innocence and childhood dreams are the greatest tragedy for Christine.

 

We have finally reached the point at which all the over-romanticization of the story are excused: unlike the vast majority of the horror interpretations, the Phantom's salvation is kept intact, and thus the core theme of redemption through love is not sacrificed.  Christine's compassion and acceptance of the Phantom in spite of his disfigurement and horrifying past are transformative, finally allowing the Phantom to rise above the hardships life has visited upon him and gain absolution.  Christine kisses him (passionately on the lips, rather than the novel's chaste forehead kiss; this is both a modernization in order to appease a society that no longer considers a forehead kiss particularly impressive, and a symptom of the romanticization of Christine's relationship with the Phantom throughout the novel, which is much further developed than merely the allegorical hints in the original) to the thundering, lushly stringed strains of the "Angel of Music" theme, signifying that she is an agent of Heaven, and that her compassion has redeemed the damned.

 

Track Down This Murderer:

 

Of course, the rest of the opera house is unaware of the redemption going on below, and probably wouldn't care if they did know about it.  People are dead and the majority of the opera house is ruined; they are understandably upset.  They form the ever-popular but not strictly novel-accurate murderous mob and go questing for the Phantom.  The Phantom, having just been redeemed, immediately turns around and sacrifices himself to save his redeemer, sending Raoul and Christine away in the only means of escape we've seen him use (the boat); even if he eludes the bloodthirsty mob bearing down on him, he will still have doomed himself to remain alone forever, without the one woman he has loved, so that Christine can have happiness with her vicomte.

 

Broken and sorrowful, he sings a tiny phrase from "Masquerade", heartbreakingly ironic since now, finally, there are no more masks; it is longing on his part for the time when he could glory in his control over his domain and dream of Christine's eventual love, both of which are now gone forever because of his actions.  He sings, "Christine, I love you," the exact same line that Raoul sang at the end of "All I Ask Of You"; it is the only time in the show that he is able to admit it so baldly, and the only time he has alluded to love for her without any accompanying demands.

 

Christine and Raoul flee, singing a gentle, ghostly reprise of "All I Ask of You" as they do; no longer a love duet for them only, it is now for the Phantom as well, a symbolic aural allegory of their love leaving him behind in the darkness.  The "All I Ask of You" theme slowly blends with "Music of the Night", the final meshing of light and darkness symbolic of the Phantom's redemption into the light;  his final, agonized words are to used to abdicate as the ruler of his domain, which no longer holds any attraction for him.  The worship of music and indulgence of his genius has been replaced by love, and now that Christine has departed all that remains for him is the memory of love.  The soft, triumphant strains of "Music of the Night" close the show.

 

Despite the fun often made of its over-romantic antics and semi-idealization of the villain into a second hero character, it isn't difficult to see why this is by far the most popular version of the story ever created.  The beautiful, extremely appropriate music heightens and enhances the story, and if the romance quotient seems overblown at times, it is forgivable because the vast majority of the themes and metaphors of the original story survive intact and poignant.

 

There are, of course, other little problems; for example, Philippe does not appear in Lloyd Webber's version at all, as an example of his streamlining characters out of the original narrative in favor of his simpler, more romantic vision, nor does the daroga, a critical part of the story.  But on the whole, the story is interpreted with a surprising amount of faith to the original themes and morals, even if it is rather hopelessly over-indulged in its treacly moments.

 

As seems to be par for the course for Lloyd Webber, he was sued several times over this musical by other musicians or composers that alleged he had stolen their work.  He defeated Ray Repp, a composer of Catholic folk music, in a court case but settled out of court with the estate of beloved opera composer Giacomo Puccini, over allegations that strong portions of the piece "Music of the Night" had been borrowed from the aria "Quello che tacete" from Puccini's opera La Fanciulla del West.  As a devoted fan of Puccini, I can say both that the same phrase is instantly identifiable in both pieces, and that "Music of the Night" definitely benefits from the borrowing.  Puccini was a genius composer. 

 

Pink Floyd singer Waters has also asserted that Webber stole from his work for the title song, and has been quoted as saying the following:

 

     "Yeah, the beginning of that bloody Phantom song is from Echoes. *DAAAA-da-da-da-da-da* [sic]. I couldn't believe

      it when I heard it. It's the same time signature - it's 12/8 - and it's the same structure and it's the same notes and it's

      the same everything. Bastard. It probably is actionable. It really is! But I think that life's too long to bother with

      suing Andrew fucking Lloyd Webber."

 

For your entertainment, the works in question (only the Floyd and Puccini, I'm afraid... I was unable to find a copy of the Repp) are provided below so you can draw your own conclusions.

 

Music of the Night (Lloyd Webber) vs. Quello che tacete (Puccini)

Overture (Lloyd Webber) vs. Echoes (Floyd)

 

John heard me play the Fanciulla excerpt and cried, "Thievery!"

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