Little Bits of History

Phantom

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 26, 2013
Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber

January 26, 1988: The Majestic Theatre on Broadway in New York City opens a new musical. The show first opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London on October 9, 1986. The musical is based on a book by the French author Gaston Leroux who gave us Le Fantôme de l’Opéra in 1911. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music while Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe contributed the lyrics. The play became the longest running Broadway musical on January 26, 2006 with its 7,486th performance. It is the second longest West End musical behind Les Miserables and passed the 9,000-performance mark on May 31, 2008.

The Phantom of the Opera has won both the Oliver Award and a Tony Award. The orchestral needs for the musical are greater than for most modern productions. The 27-piece orchestra can be replaced with pre-recorded music when the pit is too small to hold the musicians. There are also off-stage voiceovers that are pre-recorded as are Christine’s high notes at the end of the title song. The cast of 12 players requires a staff of 13. Due to the demands on the voice of the soprano in the role of Christine Daaé, two actresses are needed with the secondary actress taking the stage twice a week.

The tale takes place in Paris in 1881. The owner of the theatre sells it and while the troupe is performing for the new owners, they hear of the Opera Ghost. When their star soprano quits in a huff, Christine is put into the starring role. While she has a beautiful voice, she is untrained. She is mysteriously coached and performs brilliantly on opening night. In the audience is Raoul, Vicomte de Chagne, the new patron of the Opera House and the old sweetheart of Christine.

Christine is torn between the Phantom of the Opera and Raoul. She becomes engaged to the young man angering her adoring mentor. The two men’s animosity escalates. It is a story of unconditional love or perhaps a tale of desperate need. Andrew Lloyd Webber has given the world several spectacular musicals: Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, and Evita. He is set to premiere his sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies in 2010 with Jack O’Brien directing.

“Let me be your shelter, let me be your light.
You’re safe: No-one will find you, your fears are far behind you . . .” – Raoul

“Father once spoke of an angel . . . I used to dream he’d appear . . .
Now as I sing, I can sense him . . . And I know he’s here.” – Christine

“Flattering child, you shall know me, see why in shadow I hide!
Look at your face in the mirror – I am there inside!” – Phantom

“Christine: In sleep he sang to me / In dreams he came
That voice which calls to me / And speaks my name
And do I dream again? / For now I find
The phantom of the opera is there, / Inside my mind.
Phantom: Sing once again with me / Our strange duet
My power over you / Grows stronger yet
And though you turn from me / to glance behind
The phantom of the opera is there / Inside your mind” – all from The Phantom of the Opera

This article first appeared at Examiner.com in 2010. Editor’s update: Love Never Dies opened at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End (London) on March 9, 2010. The play was substantially written in November 2010 but still got poor reviews in England. After more substantial rewrites, the play opened in Australia to a better reception. It was to have opened on Broadway at the same time as the West End opening, but it was delayed indefinitely. Love Never Dies takes place ten years after the close of The Phantom of the Opera. The Phantom moved to the US and is in charge of Phantasma, a Coney Island amusement park. He still pines for Christine and invites her to come to the US to perform. She does not realize who issued the invitation and so she, her husband Raoul, and their son, Gustave accept the invitation.

Also on this day: The Hills Are Alive – In 1905, Maria von Trapp was born.
Bald Eagle or Wild Turkey? – In 178,: Benjamin Franklin debates using the eagle as engraved on the national seal.
Brilliant – In 1905, the Cullinan Diamond was found.

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