Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dear Phantom, A Letter

Dear Phantom,

I was 10 years old when I first heard it, the auction echoing in an empty opera house interrupted by the dissenting melodies of dueling organs. The comedic theatrics of an operatic ingénue yielding to a story of mystery, intrigue, delicious evil, forbidden desires and tragic loss, all set to the tunes and lyrics of geniuses Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

It was my first CD, in fact a double CD box set which I begged my father to purchase after hearing a rendition of Music of the Night sung by José Carreras. Of course its inclusion of a complete libretto felt to me like the prize inside of a cereal box. As an all too imaginative tween living on a Midwestern dirt road adrift on a sea of yellow cornfields, the world of Broadway, Sarah Brightman and Manhattan seemed as distant and fantastical as that of a Disney princess.

And while I did, in fact, memorize the libretto, cajole my voice teacher into coaching an ill-fated alto to eke out the aria,  “Think of Me”, and spent my nights dreaming of a mysteriously masked tenor whisking me away to subterranean dungeons filled with red velvet lounges and the echoes of Music of the Night, (the origin of my love of bad boys the world over, perhaps? I prefer not to speculate), nothing could quite have prepared me for the spectacle when, at last, at the age of 19, I saw it on stage.

The at-once illuminated chandelier sweeping above my head, the rolling fog engulfing the Orchestra pit during Phantom of the Opera, the fact that, while handsome, I still found the character of Raul as simpering and insufferable on stage as his disembodied audio counterpart; the spectacle of the Masquerade, the tears rolling down my cheeks as as Christine bids farewell to her Angel of Music.  All are memories I’ll cherish forever.

This same enthusiasm translated to the 2004 cinematic version, which I unapologetically love. Many mistakenly assume my slight obsession with Gerard Butler came from his digitally enhanced abs in the horrifically historically inaccurate 300. Oh contraire, it is a direct result of his portrayal of Phantom with emphasis on his the No Return sequence that I still maintain is the sexiest piece of film making ever projected upon a screen.

And so it is with an enthusiastic smile, a heart full of sentimentality and the goose bumps that never cease to appear during the opening sequence of dueling organs and reawakened chandeliers – that I wish a happy 24th birthday to the Phantom of the Opera. May you be delighting theatergoers and 10 year old farm girls for generations to come.


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