CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF WEST END MUSICAL ‘THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA’

michael-crawford-as-phantom

A genius locked in a deformed body. A lover driven by passion and jealousy to murder. A monster lusting for an innocent beauty. A misunderstood and unloved human being craving for compassion.

Who is this person? The Phantom of the Opera. A title character of a book written in 1909 by a French author Gaston Leroux.

When I chanced upon this book many years ago I was intrigued by a short description on the back cover. I took it home not knowing how big an impact it would have on my life.

I fell in love with Eric instantly. I cried when Christine unmasked him and raged when she betrayed him. At that time I understood what it was to be jealous and to love someone without any reciprocity. Eric’s pain was also my pain, still vivid after my own heartbreak.

Had his face been pretty, he would have been loved and admired by everyone. But even his mother couldn’t stand the sight of him. He had to hide his face from the world, live in the shadow and forsake love. For who would love a monster?

But is it possible to live without love? We dream of finding this one person who will love us and accept us the way we are. And until we find that person we live in hope. And hope is a feeling hard to extinguish. We can try to steel our hearts but when this special person comes along, it is a matter of time when we cast caution to the wind and follow this blood pumping organ. Whenever it leads us.

Was Eric able to resist Christine’s sweet innocence and female charm? He sought warmth, compassion and consolation after long years of solitude. She needed strength, self esteem and acceptance after her father’s death. They could give each other what they needed the most but his face prevailed. Christine couldn’t bring herself to love Eric the way he was because she saw only his ugly face.

And can I blame her for choosing young, beautiful and rich Vicomte de Chagny over deformed Eric? Christine was young and innocent. Much older Phantom, although innocent himself, was a man. A passionate man who wanted more than she was ready to deliver. He made her believe he was an angel sent from heaven by her father. You can love and admire your angel, but you can hardly lust for him. When Raoul came onto stage, ready to sweep Christine off her feet with his sweet talk and pretty face, Eric became jealous. He rushed things between him and Christine by abducting her to his lair. No wander she was stunned – her angel became a man.

If she listened to him and did not unmasked him they would have a chance at knowing each other better. Maybe then she would be able to see past his deformed face and see a man behind the mask. But enraged by her disobedience and disgust the Phantom did the only thing that came to his tormented mind – he threatened her into loving him. And it was hardly a way to a woman’s heart. No wonder Christine turned for help to the man she knew as a child – Raoul. Their young love bloomed in the shadow of the Phantom. The tragedy was imminent.

The Phantom of the Opera’ is my favourite book. The author wrote about this deformed genius in such a way that my heart went out to him and I completely forgot he was also a villain and a killer. Clearly, there must be something wrong with me, right?

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical does the book a great justice. Michael Crawford’s portrayal of Eric is my favourite. For me Mr. Crawford is the ultimate Phantom. I could listen to his voice for hours and still beg for more. In my humble opinion ‘The Music of the Night’ is the most beautiful piece of the entire score.

This year I finally had a chance to see the musical with my own eyes and experience its magic in person. I had waited for this moment many years but it was worth it. The West End production dazzled me with the colours of the costumes, enthralled me with the beauty of the singers’ voices and transfixed me with the grand scale of the production. Every minute of the musical was pure magic and I will cherish the memories of that event till the day I die.

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