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The music of Phantom

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews
Article Date: January 28, 2005 | Publication: The Philippine Star | Author: Baby A. Gil
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It took Phantom of the Opera a long time to get to the big screen so it was quite disappointing to read the less-than- enthusiastic reviews and the news that it is not doing as well as expected at the box-office. Did they do wrong to wait for more than a decade before making the movie? Was it wrong of the producers to get Joel Schumacher, best known for Batman Forever to direct? Was it also a mistake to cast relative unknowns in the lead roles? Should they have used Antonio Banderas instead or kept Michael Crawford?

But let us leave those questions to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber who is said to have financed the movie version. The important thing is Phantom is now a movie and this is a great opportunity to watch one of the most successful musicals of all time. Phantom requires a lot of special effects on stage and is not one of those shows that can be mounted easily. In fact, I do not recall any local production unlike Les Miserables or Miss Saigon. This means that if you wanted to watch Phantom you have to go to New York or London. No need for that anymore. You just have to go to the movies.

Great! I must admit I developed some misgivings about what I would see after reading the bad news about Phantom at the box-office. The last thing I want is to waste my time and shatter whatever memories I have of the show. But all those went away the moment I played the soundtrack. Just as the Phantom imperiously orders his protégé Christine to sing, those famous opening chords told me to watch and be mesmerized anew by the hypnotic music and the spectacular sights. I can name better musicals with more memorable tunes but I tell you, not one of them is as compelling as what Lloyd Webber created for his Phantom of the Opera.

Like me, I am sure all of you out there familiar with the Phantom will measure this version against the standards set by the original cast of Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman and Steve Barton. They were not only extraordinary performers, they were ideally suited for their roles. But remember, they did all these a long time ago and the motion picture cast is certainly not without its own merits. So forget Crawford, Brightman and Barton. Approach this new soundtrack instead with an open mind and marvel at what it has.

TV actor Gerard Butler lacks Crawford’s powerful, lyrical tenor but his singing conveys so much sensuality and anguish and helps identify the Phantom as one tormented soul. Emmy Rossum, who was the dead girl in Mystic River, is as young as Christine in the original story and has the clear singing tones of an angel. As for Patrick Wilson, who plays Raoul, he has the kind of leading man voice we expect out of romantic heroes. The orchestration is of course, also different but it is fuller, even epic in proportion to the original recording and truly impressive.

Based on the story written by M. Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera is about a mysterious man who haunts the Paris Opera. He has taken a fancy to Christine to whom he gives singing lessons in his subterranean den. It is no wonder then that the young soprano becomes an instant success when she is drafted to replace the ailing diva Carlota. She also finds love in a former childhood playmate Raoul. But the Phantom refuses to free her from his spell. She must, he says, keep on singing his music of the night.

Still on the music of Phantom. Learn to be Lonely, the new song written for the motion picture and performed by actress and it turns out, also singer Minnie Driver, made it to the Academy Award nominations for Best Original Song. It was also one of the nominees in the recent Golden Globe Awards where it lost to the boyishly naughty Old Habits Die Hard from Alfie. This was composed by Mick Jagger and ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart.

At the Oscars, Learn to be Lonely, a pop tune, which is not even a distant relative of the original Phantom score, is up against Look to Your Path from the French Film Le Choristes; Al Otro Lado del Rio from the Brazilian film Diarios de Motocicleta; Believe from The Polar Express and Accidentally in Love from Shrek 2.

 


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