All I Ask of You–and More

I had been saving Gaston Leroux’ Phantom of the Opera for the right moment because I was simultaneously practicing delayed gratification and fearing that it wouldn’t measure up to my favorite musical. Fortunately, it did!

Actually, a lot of it was quite different, and it was easy to view them as separate entities. The additional characters (most notably Philippe and the Persian), as well as changes in existing ones, allowed me to see this in its own light. Christine was definitely a more conflicted character, torn between her desires and her fears of hurting those around her. Raoul is certainly sympathetic and dashing in his devotion, but won’t ever make the multitudes swoon. Indeed, the descriptions often described them as children, two innocents completely and selflessly in love, trapped in the game of a madman. I think the scenes between the two of them were my favorites.

Erik, too, is harder to decipher. At some points he is easy to pity, wanting only to be loved and accepted for once in his life and denying any desire of hurting Christine. His cruelty at other times was shocking, though– crimes not just of passion but also calculated, especially the horrors of the torture chamber. Regardless, he is a genius, and not only in the musical sense.

One thing that struck me was the references to actual operas in the book, in addition on the Phantom discussing his Don Juan Triumphant. Obviously this was impossible with ALW composing all his own music, but it did give it more of a realistic feel. It was interesting to note how he changed, rearranged, added and subtracted plot devices to suit his own story. There was more of an emphasis on the bigger picture; I was shocked that when the Phantom diasppeared with Christine there were still over 100 pages left in the book. The references to Little Lotte made much more sense now, though Erik’s backstory and arrival at the Opera House were much different than what Madame Giry discribes in the show. I would love to sit down with the scriptwriters and ask about the changes, as all I have is speculation.

Coincidentally, I just read a blurb in the paper that ALW is writing a sequel called Phantom: Love Never Dies. The musical is set in Coney Island ten years after the original and is set to open at the end of this year. I’m terribly excited for anything he writes, but fear that it may be better to let sleeping dogs lie. After all, the book makes the ending pretty clear…

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Published in: on January 5, 2009 at 3:49 am  Leave a Comment  

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