Saturday, April 7, 2012

Music of the Night

Good afternoon, dear reader

You may or may not have noticed my 'sudden' infatuation with music.  Or, more correctly, with The Phantom of the Opera.  Very seldom am I moved by music, but this is one piece that gets me every time.  And by 'moved', I mean inspired.  Yes, dear reader, listening to and watching the musical does me good.  It gets my creative juices flowing.  And so, today I want to share with you a little part of the journey that I take when I hear the music of the night.

"Lot 665, then ladies and gentlemen". On the original London cast recording, this is where the journey begins.  In other productions, it may start with a different lot, but that is sort of irrelevant.  Yes dear reader, at those very words, I am transported to an auction in old France.  I can feel the emotion in the voice of the Viscomte de Chagny as he looks upon the musical box in the shape of a barrel organ with the figure of a monkey dressed in Persian robes (still in working order!).  I can feel his pain as he remembers his love.  I am in pain with him.

But alas, dear reader, that is merely the beginning of the journey.  Truly it is the next lot in the auction that really makes one feel alive...lot 666 then.  Ah the very chandelier that figures in the famous disaster.  After a brief description as to what the electricians have done to it (wiring it for the new electric light), we are transported even further back in is at this time that my goose bumps have goose bumps, and the shivers going down my spine are shivering themselves. For now, dear reader, we are introduced to the panic and fear when he appears, or seems to appear.  I have lump in my throat, dear reader.

At this point, I can feel a noticeable difference between listening to the score, and watching the full production.  I have done both.  I first heard the Phantom in the late '80s.  My brother had seen it in the Pantages Theatre in Toronto, and he brought back with him the cd, to which he introduced me.  And that was the beginning of my love for this brilliantly designed piece.  Roughly 8 years later, I saw The Phantom live, in San Francisco.  Time has erased many memories of it, but I do remember the chandelier far the best I've seen.  And I remember the awe I felt as I tried to see what was going on from way up in the nosebleed section.  It was magical.

Then on September 14, 2006 I saw it again, this time in Edmonton.  This time Dianne and I were in the center of the stage, 8 rows back.  We were close enough to see the sweat of the performers.  We could hear and see things that I simply didn't remember from San Francisco.  My love was re-kindled, and I really wanted more.  Seeing the production again, however, was not meant to be.  Until recently.

Channel surfing is a wonderful thing, and it is because of browsing tendencies that I saw an airing of The Phantom on KSPS.  And it was not just any old performance.  No, dear reader, this was the 25th anniversary gala performed in the Royal Albert Hall in London.  This was magical.  I can only imagine what the atmosphere must have been like that night.  Naturally, I PVR'd this broadcast in high definition.  And, as a self-professed junkie would do...I have watched the performance a couple times now.

I have had the pleasure of seeing 3 different Phantoms now, and Ramin Karimloo (a good Canadian lad!!) in my mind is the best I have ever seen.  I have not been fortunate enough to see Michael Crawford or Colm Wilkinson, so I cannot compare.  But the sheer passion that Ramin brings to the role is astounding.  He embodies everything that the Phantom means to me. I almost feel his madness, his confusion. Listening to and watching this translation of the mad musician makes me feel as if I am wearing the mask.  His pain, his love is real.  And so is the evil that lurks inside.  Is he a man or a monster?  I dare say that he is both.

And then there is Christine Daae.  Again, 3 different interpretations of this role, and 3 very different emotions.  Maybe it is the length of time between me seeing each performance, but the most recent one is clearly head and shoulders above the rest.  I don't and can't compare her to Sarah Brightman (the original Christine), for I have not witnessed that performance.  But I have to say that Miss Sierra Boggess has turned in a marvelous piece of work.  Watching her bring Christine to life is something I will never forget.  So convincing and real was she that I hung on her every breath, her every emotion.  I believed every tear, every plea, and every profession of love...yes each kiss was not a seemingly brief screen kiss, but a kiss of love.

Yes, dear reader, I am a fan of The Phantom of the Opera.  Near the end, as Raoul was hanging from the magical lasso (he forgot to keep his hand at eye level!), I was hurting.  But I didn't hurt because the young Viscomte was in dire, I hurt because the mad genius who only wanted love was being tormented by a decision he had to make.  And I hurt because the one person who could save him from the destruction of his own mind could not love him as he wanted.

Yes, as Ramin and Sierra and Hadley Fraser (Raoul) played out these closing moments, I felt a rush in my very being that I don't think could ever be matched.  I felt the pain of love that all 3 actors portrayed so well.  I felt it, dear reader.  And at that very moment as the Phantom disappears behind his cloak, I was transported to very spot where only his mask lies on the chair.  I was there with Meg Giry as she picked up the mask.  I was there, dear reader, wondering if ever again I would hear the music of the night.  And then I realized that yes I will hear my head, in my very being.  Music moves me, dear reader.  It inspires me.  And when the Angel of Music is played around me, I will always now associate the sweet sounds with Ramin and Sierra.  I thank you both...the music of the night has never sounded quite like that.


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