From the catacombs below the Palais Garnier in the ninth arrondissment of Paris comes a story of love, loss and languish. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel “The Phantom of the Opera” is a worldwide sensation, smashing theatrical and box office records for the past 28 years.
“The Phantom of the Opera” follows the epic journeys of two separate characters: The Phantom (portrayed by Gerard Butler) and Christine Daeé (portrayed by Emmy Rossum).
As with most stories of loss, The Phantom — a musical genius disfigured since birth — faces the reality that he cannot be present in modern society, and must thusly serve as an “opera ghost,” guiding/terrorizing the production staff of the Opera Populaire. This role allows him to realize his musical genius while the opera thrives, and the opera supports his personal needs (often begrudgingly) in turn.
Christine Daeé enters the story as a chorus girl in need of a chance, and the female protagonist in the story. The prima donna of the Opera Populaire, Carlotta (portrayed by Minnie Driver) exudes the stereotype — needy, whiny, and finicky to the core — and even threatens to walk out of production. Madame Giry (portrayed by Miranda Richardson), a long-time chorus member and de facto leader of the chorus, recognizes Christine’s abilities and introduces her to the Phantom. Madame Giry is aware of the Phantom because she was the one to rescue him from a carnival when they were young children. The Phantom sees this opportunity to help move Christine’s talent forward, establishing her as his student, and moving forward his expectation that she will serve as prima donna of the Opera Populaire as her voice progresses.
As Christine’s career advances, a boy from her childhood (Raoul, portrayed by Patrick Wilson) reappears as a dashing bourgeois gentleman, and quickly rekindles his friendship with Christine. That friendship quickly grows into romance, and as that romance continues to blossom, the Phantom becomes more obsessed with Christine, and his disdain for Raoul grows. This whole process comes to a bombastic climax, which will only be evident when you see the show.
While there have been many cinematic productions of “The Phantom of the Opera,” this setting of the novel has become the darling of the musical theater world. Female vocalists are drawn to Christine’s major solo works (intensified by Sarah Brightman’s original performances written specifically for her by her husband Andrew Lloyd Webber), and the soaring swells of the orchestra can bring even the least interested into the story. The setting of the Palais Garnier allows substantial extravagance in staging (choreographed by Gillian Lynne), and is a constant feast for the eyes.
The Homer Opera Guild is hosting this screening at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 as the Opening Gala of the 2014-2015 Met Opera season. There will be complimentary hors d’oeuvre’s and opera “champagne” in addition to the standard theater fare. Door prizes will be drawn and there will be a short season preview. See you at the theater.
Kyle Schneider, bass-baritone, is a vocalist and music educator residing in Homer.