The Phantom of the Opera – (2004) “A universe is a mask fitted on the face of the unknown [real] Universe,” commented cosmologist Edward Harrison. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s magnificent musical brought to the screen with splendiferous sets and costumes by Joel Schumacher opens with a black-and-white scene of an auction in Paris 1919 that bursts into a spectacle of music and color at a rehearsal of Chalumeau’s Hannibal in the Opera Populaire of 1870.
The tragic, tidal story (a merger of Faust with Beauty and the Beast) of a jealous genius, who wears a mask to hide his deformed face, dashed into madness when he is denied and betrayed by the love of a 16-year-old soprano, the only daughter of a famous deceased Swedish violinist, whom the phantom has inspired with song (an unseen voice, a secret and strange angel of music she has mistaken for her father’s spirit) incongruously flowing above a comic undercurrent, an antimasque of clowns (the opera house’s new managers Messrs Andre and Firmin and their prima donna Carlotta). At midpoint when the stage custodian falls to the stage during a performance of the comedy Il Muto with a noose around his neck, the humor ends and horror takes over, concluding with the phantom’s own opera composition Don Juan.
Unfortunately too often the acting fails to reach the heights of the songs (oh, the music is gloriously gorgeous!), though the first scene in the phantom’s dungeon is very affecting. I was disappointed that Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum) left the phantom (Gerard Butler, who performed better than the other leads, looking like a young John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever in a mask) for Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny (Patrick Wilson). We watched it twice on consecutive nights (a rarity for us) and will get a CD of the soundtrack, a DVD of the movie, and look for an opportunity to attend a live performance. A rock-musical version of The Phantom of the Opera is Phantom of the Paradise (1974), featuring the music and screen appearance of Paul Williams – “I’d sell my soul for one love who would sing my song.”
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