The Brilliant Original performance of The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London was one of the most delightful moments I had during my trip to Europe last summer. The rendition of the original title song, the fantastical duet of the Phantom and Christine Daae, always gives me chills no matter who perform it. It is truly at the zenith of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical genius.
I had a chance to see the Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary concert that was held last October at Royal Albert Hall, starring Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christen Daae. At the end of the performance, Andrew Lloyd Webber himself appears onstage and introduces the original cast and his “Angel of Music,” Sarah Brightman who gives an unforgettable stage of The Phantom of the Opera with five Phantoms, namely Andrew Warlow, John Owen Jones, Colm Wilkinson, Peter Jöback and Ramin Karimloo who have all played the role in their career.
I always imagined The Phantom of the Opera as a romantic story that is too beautiful to be happy. The well-known conclusion seems pretty straightforward, that the beautiful Christen cannot fall in love with the deformed man so she falls instead into the arms of the handsome Raoul. But when you watch several productions of the musical, you’ll notice subtle ambiguity in Christen’s real feelings.
Who was the one Christen really loves? Could she leave the Phantom with absolutely no feelings for him other than mere sympathy? The real artistic element in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera is that the emotional essence of the story(i.e. Object of Christen’s affection) depends on the artists who interpret and play the characters, as well as the audience who interact with them on stage. For example, a South Korean production has led to the real-life marriage of the actor and actress who play Raoul and Christen respectively–so it wouldn’t be so difficult for the South Korean audience to see whom Christen on the stage really loves. In that particular production, the scene of All I Want For You must have been more poignant than the Phantom of the Opera or The Point of No Return.
The 25th anniversary rendition of the Phantom of the Opera was really about the dynamics between Christen and the Phantom. Hadly Fraser was the handsomest Raoul I’ve seen, but it was somewhat unnatural to sense real chemistry between him and Sierra as onstage ‘couple’ even when they kiss and hug and all. Maybe it was because the Phantom and Christen have worked together in their originating roles in Love Never Dies that Raoul couldn’t find his place between them. I’ve never seen the sequel but if they have played in a story where Christen eventually turns to the Phantom, it’s understandable why Christen was so tormented when she leaves the Phantom towards the end of the musical that will be released in DVD/blu-ray in February. Some point out that the 25th anniversary production was meant to be a prelude to its sequel, Love Never Dies.
(I read a brief synopsis and couldn’t agree with the premise of the story that almost resembles a soap opera!)