“The Phantom of the Opera” is a musical with the musical score composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber; the lyrics are by Charles Hart with additions to the lyrics from Richard Stilgoe. This ‘greatest horror story of all time’ is based on the French novel “Le Fantôme de l’Opéra” by Gaston Leroux. Its central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius.
The musical opened in London’s West End in 1986 and on Broadway in 1988. It won the 1986 Olivier Award and the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical. Michael Crawford (in the title role) won the Olivier and Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Musical. It is the longest running show in Broadway history by a wide margin, and celebrated its 10,000th Broadway performance on 11 February 2012 – the first production ever to do so. It is the second longest-running West End musical, and the third longest-running West End show overall.
This story is described as being one of the greatest horror stories of all time – it relates a series of extraordinary events that take place in the years between 1881 and 1905. Far beneath the majesty and splendor of the Paris Opera House, hides a bitter man, in a shadowy existence – he hides his hideous face from the prying and mocking eyes of the world. Known widely as “the Phantom,” he lives out his lonely existence in the maze of dirty sewers and dripping gutters that lie underneath the Majestic Paris Opera House.
This ‘Opera Ghost’ is, actually, a veritable genius – a highly talented composer, a powerful operatic singer ‘par excellence’ and a magician capable of evoking terror in the hearts of his audience. Disfigured at birth, this talented musician is forced to hide his terrible facial disfigurement behind a mask, which he wears at all times. As the story unfolds, we find that there is tremendous humor mingled with all kinds of strange events that are horrific, yet paradoxically tragic and pathetic. The little-known, brilliant original text by the French author, Gaston Leroux continues to be immortalized till this day by screen and stage adaptations and remains tremendously popular.
It portrays the story of a talented musician, one who is crazed and driven to the edge of insanity by the sight of his own extreme ugliness. The author shows here a compassionate insight into a criminally insane mind – he explains the background of the Phantom’s sordid childhood that has led him to such extremes of madness. Music richly infuses this story which is steeped in the glamour of the stately life at the Paris Opera House. A base of realism is interwoven into the story midst incredible and seemingly supernatural elements – artfully interwoven with real facts, real places and real events that take place within this skillfully produced tale of horror and murder. The musical and novel is a dazzling blend of illusion and reality – the author’s knowledge of the building itself and the extraordinary history of its construction add a sense of reality to each chilling event that occurs along the way.
The Phantom falls in love with an obscure, yet strikingly beautiful, chorus singer Christine. He privately tutors her, while terrorizing the rest of the opera house through blackmail and deadly pranks. He keeps on demanding that Christine be given lead roles in the upcoming opera. The love he feels for Christine verges on becoming an intense obsession – she is his only companion, closest to being called a friend, in his lonely existence and she becomes his young singing protégé. Christine is strangely attracted to this mysterious specter but she is also terrified of the lure of the powerful voice of her ‘Angel of Music’ – an angel whose rapturous voice sings to her while she sleeps and whispers in her ear during her waking hours in the day. When Christine is finally cast as the lead singer in an opera, the show instantly casts her into immediate fame.
The situation greatly escalates into a theme of horror and tragedy when ‘a love triangle’ is formed: when Christine accepts the marriage proposal of the new patron of the Paris Opera House – le Vicomte Raoul de Chagny. Raoul, as Fate would have it, used to be Christine’s childhood acquaintance and long-lost sweetheart. Christine soon finds herself falling deeply in love with Raoul. The Phantom witnesses their song of love and weeps bitter tears of disillusionment. However, his self-pity and despairing tears soon turn into a furious and jealous rage.
The story reaches a crescendo (a high point’) when the Phantom goes to extreme lengths to win back the love his beautiful protégé, Christine – to such an extent that the Opera Ghost is willing to go ‘Past the Point of No Return’ to win back the love of Christine. Raoul loves Christine with all his heart – Raoul is willing, in his turn, to fight the Phantom, in his deadly game, till the bitter end. The Phantom raises the stakes to the ultimate level when he forces Christine to choose between her true love for Raoul and the strange attraction that she cannot help feeling for the deformed, obsessive, yet pitifully lonely, Phantom.
So, in a last, desperate attempt at an ill-gotten victory, the Phantom decides to kidnap Christine and imprison her with him in his lair, in the dungeons far below the Paris Opera House. Raoul is now the only one who can stop the crazed Phantom. In the lair, Christine is forced, by her mentor, to wear a doll’s wedding dress. Raoul finds the lair, but the Phantom captures him with his lasso. He tells Christine that he will free Raoul if she agrees to stay with him forever; if she refuses, Raoul will die.
Christine tells the Phantom that it is his soul that is deformed, not his face, and she kisses him, comforting him. The Phantom, having experienced kindness and compassion for the first time in his sad and pitiful life, sets them both free. As Christine returns the Phantom’s ring to him, he tells her that he loves her. She cries, forces herself to turn away, and leaves with Raoul. At the end of this dramatic story, the Phantom is seen weeping; he huddles on his throne and covers himself with his cape, in a pathetic attempt to hide once again from a curious yet callous world. The angry mob storms the lair but when one of them pulls away the cape, it shows that the Phantom has vanished, as if into thin air. Only his mask remains as concrete proof of his fleeting, tragic and enigmatic existence.
“The Point of No Return” refers to a line or boundary that when crossed allows for no backward glances and typically results in an irrevocable commitment to a certain course of action. It is a “now or never” situation – once you start upon such a hurtling, collision course, be well aware that its repercussions will lead to irreparable consequences and one way or the other, someone’s feelings will get hurt.
It is a situation that is best described as being, “between the Devil and the Deep-Blue Sea” or as one would likely say, it is all about “finding oneself between a wall and a hard place.” It concerns making a courageous and lone stand in a “no-win” situation where one is likely to feel trapped and cornered from all sides. It is all about reaching the Fork or Crossroads in the ‘Road of Life’ – a situation that one encounters, more than once, in any given lifetime.
The simple fact is that “the straight and narrow path of righteousness” is rarely ever straight – it always moves in one single, given direction and has one fixed goal of the spread of Goodwill and Benevolence in the world. Such a path is ridden with dangerous hairpin bends and several deadly deviations that suddenly appear, in front of you, as if arisen from the thin air. These treacherous bends consist of tremendous obstacles, great difficulties and umpteen hidden traps and potholes – what can only be best described as ‘The Many Temptations of Satan.’ These traps are designed to break any number of your bones into small splinters and as if these grave injuries weren’t enough to cripple you for life, know that these traps are also designed to break your spirit along the way.
How you choose to travel and embark on such a course OUGHT ALWAYS to depend on the correctness of the situation – you should choose a course that your conscience will allow you to comfortably live with for the rest of your natural life on this Earth. There is no turning back on such a collision course and be well aware that there will be no time for regrets either – now or later. You need to skillfully hone your conscience in such a way that you are capable, in the span of a split-second, to make a good decision, in very difficult and desperate circumstances. This decision should hold well in the long-term despite tremendous odds and pressures to the contrary. Do not bend with the strong winds of pressure – learn to stand tall and firm – simply due to the fact that you strongly believe in the rightness and correctness of your actions and deeds.
Each and everyone of us reaches the “Point of No Return at some time or other in our lives – your reaction to it may not get you a lot of friends BUT it will certainly get you the right ones. At the end of the day, our lives consist of having the strength of character to make the Right Decisions in the Face of Immense Opposition. Along the way, believe me, you will earn the Respect of one and all – even if it is a grudging effort at respect. Be prepared to STAND ALONE among tens of trillions in the world to prove the rightness and justness of your actions. That is – and always will be – The Road to Salvation!
- Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera (octaeves.wordpress.com)
- Win tickets to The Phantom of the Opera (jewishnews.net.au)
- Phantom of the Opera Enjoying Record Breaking Run at Her Majesty’s Theatre (hermajestytheatrelondon.wordpress.com)
- On Broadway, Old Shows And New Tricks (npr.org)
- Movie Review – The Phantom Of The Opera (2004) (fernbyfilms.com)
- Phantom of the Opera at the Birmingham Hippodrome (marktattum.wordpress.com)
- “Phantom” Has Inspired A Quarter Century Of “Phan-Dom” (statenisland.ny1.com)