Tag Archives: The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom and Nightcrawler: There’s Always a Choice

I stumbled across a website that contains archives of old comic books, and I took advantage of the situation to learn more about Nightcrawler of the X-Men. Learning about his origins, I realized there were some interesting parallels between his origins and those of Erik, the Phantom of the Opera (and phantom of this blog for as frequently as he manages to insert himself into posts).

To make a long story short, Kurt spent most of his childhood as a sideshow performer at a circus–a lot like Erik did. They also experienced similar treatments of hatred and fear, and both escaped as soon as they got the chance. Where they differ, however, is how they reacted to their situations. We all know what happened to Erik–he turned his back on the world and became an insane, homicidal psychopath. Kurt, however, chose to forgive and not lose hope in humanity.

That decision really impressed me. I knew he was one of the good guys because of X-Men United, but when I was reading his story, I really felt that I was reading the origin of a villain. But that wasn’t what he chose to be. So I found his story extremely fascinating when compared to Erik’s; although they both suffered similar misfortunes as children, they reacted to that misfortune in drastically different ways.

I also feel a little less sorry for Erik now. My reaction to him was similar to what Christine and the Persian felt for him, loathing mixed with pity. But now that I know that Kurt had an almost identical childhood and yet did not become an insane, homicidal psychopath, I’m like…sorry, Erik. You had a choice, buddy, and this was what you chose to be.

But at least he achieved a redemption of sorts and probably made it as far as Literary Purgatory.


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The 1943 PotO Plot Twist That Almost Happened

As the title should make you realize, we’ve got another Phantom of the Opera post on our hands. Strap yourselves in.

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite Phantom adaptations is the 1943 movie with Claude Rains–despite its numerous departures from the book, it still manages to tell a good story (and Claude Rains gave a good performance to boot). But there was one change it almost made that would have drastically altered the story.

To be honest, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m going to talk about it again. When Universal was first working on this movie, they had the idea to make Erique the long-lost father of Christine. The backstory here was that Erique had abandoned his wife and daughter in order to pursue his dream career as a violinist at the Paris Opera House. Part of him, however, always felt guilty for abandoning his family, and when Christine came to the opera house as a singer, Erique recognized his daughter and sought to help her pursue her dream as a roundabout way of making up for abandoning her as a child. Of course, he had to do this secretly since he couldn’t just go up to her and say, “Hi, I’m the dad who abandoned you and your mother to go off and pursue my selfish desires; sorry about that.” The studio censors ultimately put the nix on that angle because they felt the Phantom’s growing obsession with Christine would start to make the relationship seem more incestuous than paternal.

Here’s the thing, though–if you watch the movie with the view that Erique is Christine’s father, there isn’t anything that really jumps out as incestuous. In fact, there are a few suggestions during the course of the movie that what the Phantom feels for Christine is not romantic at all. He denies to Christine’s tutor that he is secretly paying for her lessons because he is in love with her, and when he’s leading her to the underground lair, he’s speaking as if to soothe a frightened child. When people figured out that Erique was the Phantom, they all assumed that his interest in Christine was due to being obsessively in love with her, but imagine the shock and surprise that would have been on their faces had they learned the Phantom was terrorizing the opera house in order to make his daughter the star he knew she could be.

I think one of the biggest clues they were going to use for this reveal is that Erique knew the lullaby Christine had heard in her childhood. They way they eventually explained it in the movie was that Erique had come from the same area in France as Christine, and lots of people there probably knew that lullaby. I always thought this was a lame explanation, but the writers probably had to come up with something at the last minute after the “I am your father” storyline was retconned.

All in all, I think it was a shame they ultimately didn’t go this route–it definitely would have made for an interesting twist that you don’t see in other Phantom adaptations. And, frankly, they had already deviated so wildly from the book that it wouldn’t have made any difference.

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2016 is a Big Year for Phantom of the Opera

As I mentioned in my previous post, 2016 is the 30th anniversary of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, perhaps one of the best-known adaptations of the story of the Opera Ghost. But did you know that another PotO adaptation celebrates its anniversary in 2016? That distinction belongs to Das Phantom der Oper, a silent German adaptation dating from 1916. It was the first and, at 100 years old, the oldest adaptation of Phantom–and it also no longer exists, being destroyed in a fire long ago. What little we know about it comes from newspaper articles that date from its 1916 debut (you can view those articles here, and my greatest thanks to the enterprising souls who uncovered the information), but it appears to have followed the story just as closely, if not more so, than the 1925 version.

The big question is how the only known copy was destroyed in a fire–what about the copies that were distributed in other countries? I have a theory about that. There were some German studios that had no qualms about adapting a book without getting the proper copyright stuff out of the way, hence the whole Nosferatu debacle. I can’t help but wonder if something similar happened here–the studio was sued for creating an unauthorized adaptation and ordered to destroy the copies, but one of the copies was saved from destruction only to later be lost in a fire. Of course, I know a lot of silent films were lost due to reasons that had nothing to do with court orders or devious plots, but it could still be an explanation as to what happened.

Either way, it’s an interesting glimpse into the earliest known adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.

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Happy 30th, Phantom!


Over the weekend, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera celebrated its 30th anniversary–that’s right, 30 years of crashing chandeliers and masquerades. As part of the celebration, the official Phantom of the Opera Facebook page live-streamed part of the special anniversary performance to fans all over the world. And the good news is that the live streams are archived on Facebook!

There was also a preshow that featured some of the performers in the special finale.

Here’s to another brilliant 30 years!

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When Life Imitates Art

Random Phantom of the Opera post here again. They just won’t die (not that I want them to).

It’s pretty well known that despite being described as blonde in the book, most Phantom adaptations portray Christine as brunette. I can think of only two or three versions where she’s shown as a blonde; most versions show her as brunette, and I just kind of came to accept it as the imperfect world where book adaptations are never 100% faithful to the book.

But then I found this video of Emmi Christensson, who is currently playing Christine in the London production of The Phantom of the Opera. What is so notable about Emmi?

  1. She is Swedish, just like Christine is in the book.
  2. She is a natural blonde, so they let her have a blonde wig in the production.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a blonde Swedish soprano playing…a blonde Swedish soprano.

What makes it even better is that her voice sounds remarkably close to the voice I imagined for Christine when I read the book. So now I have found my ideal Phantom (John Owen-Jones) and my ideal Christine (Emmi Christensson). There’s even an audio recording of the two of them singing the title song together, which makes my nerdy little heart extremely happy.

Now all I have to do is figure out my dream Raoul (Hadley Fraser is extremely close), and then I’ll have my ideal cast.

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“You Will Sing Only for Me”: A Review of the 1962 “Phantom of the Opera”

Yes, the Opera Ghost once more creeps from his murky underground lair to cast his ominous shadow over my blog. To be honest, though, I’m happy to have found a topic for another Phantom post–it feels like forever since I’ve written on this topic.

This particular version of The Phantom of the Opera was a Hammer Films production from 1962 and starred Herbert Lom as the Phantom, Heather Sears as Christine, and Edward de Souza as…Harry? Yes, it’s Harry, not Raoul, because this version is set in London, so I suppose Raoul didn’t sound English enough. On the future Doctor Who star front, we had Michael Gough (the Toymaker) as scheming sleazebag Lord Ambrose d’Arcy and Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor) as the Rat Catcher…who was on screen for all of five minutes before a dwarf stabbed him in the eye. Oh, well.

So in this version, Harry is producing Lord d’Arcy’s new opera about Joan of Arc, but mysterious acts of sabotage keep happening in the theater as they get closer to opening night–the pages of the score are torn and missing; the drums have been slashed; one of the stagehands is found hanging from a beam as his body swings out onto the stage and terrifies the audience and the singers–y’know, the usual. The soprano Maria, who was supposed to play Joan, flat-out refused to return to the stage after the whole incident with the hanging body, but all is not lost. Harry discovers that Christine, one of the members of the chorus, has a lovely singing voice and with a little training would be perfect for the role of Joan. Lord Ambrose the Skeezy invites Christine to dinner to discuss giving her lessons, but she hears a mysterious voice in her dressing room warning her not to trust him. The voice also goes on to say that he will teach Christine how to sing, but she must sing only for him. When Christine later tells Harry of the voice she heard, they both return to the dressing room to investigate further, but they are both involved in something they do not understand…and they run the risk of angering the Phantom unless they both do as he says.

Like the 1943 version, the Phantom is a mild-mannered musician who snaps like a twig when he suspects his music has been stolen (in this version, it really is) and has his face scarred with etching acid. The deformity makeup was very interesting in this movie–and still leagues ahead of what they had in the 2004 version.

Herbert Lom as the Phantom

Professor Petrie is not impressed by your bad sunburn.

What I didn’t particularly like was how they gave the Phantom a henchman in the form of the mysterious dwarf. It made the Phantom less powerful and menacing, and I feel the character loses something that way. Yes, it made him more sympathetic because the dwarf was the one running around murdering everyone (and not necessarily at the Phantom’s behest), but making the Phantom less terrifying lessens the impact of the story. What was especially interesting was that they toned down his obsession with Christine. In this version he’s not necessarily in love with her, but in her voice he hears the kind of talent he always wanted to perform his music, which is why he trains her as relentlessly as he does.

Harry, on the other hand, is my favorite movie Raoul. He has no patience for stupid and gets things done. When Christine is in danger, he jumps into action without a second thought, and he is the one who pieces together the Phantom’s identity when no one else can figure it out. A lot of the narration focused on Harry’s investigations into the Phantom’s identity, which made it similar to the book’s focus on Raoul’s attempts to figure out what was haunting Christine.

All in all, it was an enjoyable movie despite the deviations from the book. It felt odd to have the Phantom’s character be so muted, but Harry more than made up for it. And if you can enjoy a movie despite its deviations from its source material, it’s a sign that the screen writers managed to do their job and do it well.

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One Love, One Lifetime (or Why Christine was Smart to Choose Raoul)

They’re back, the random yet hopefully edifying Phantom of the Opera posts! You didn’t think they were gone, did you?

Within the phandom, you tend to see a lot of people insist that Christine should have chosen Erik for all the usual reasons–taught her to sing, more romantic, not a fop, etc. To me it just seems that Raoul gets a lot of undeserved hate. I’m not passing judgement here; I used to feel the same way. I was 15 when I read The Phantom of the Opera for the first time, and my 15-year-old self did not think much of the vicomte. He seemed like he was trying too hard at, well, everything, and instead of respecting him, I wanted to laugh at him. At the time I did think that Erik was a better choice because he managed to command more respect. Of course, considering that Erik was also a kidnapper and a murderer, I also reflected that maybe Christine shouldn’t have married either one of them.

As I got older, my understanding of love changed and became a little clearer, and the distinction between Erik and Raoul became more distinct to me. I realized the fundamental difference between the two men was the result of the difference in the way they approached love. Erik was willing to kill for Christine, but Raoul was willing to die for her. Erik’s love was selfish and possessive, driven by his own desire for a normal life, but Raoul was willing to sacrifice everything, including his life, to keep Christine safe. Sacrifice is intrinsic to love; there is no way to separate the two. Erik expected Christine to give up everything to be with him–it’s been awhile since I’ve read the book, but I’m pretty sure Erik was sacrificing nada in this relationship.

I want you to give up your friends, your career, and everything you knew to live in a cold, dark cellar with me. That's all I ask of you.

So, yes, Raoul may have been a bit pathetic and laughable, but it’s important to remember that he was still young–really, he was just a little vicomte; he was still working on being awesome when he grew up. Although his execution of his plans may have been lackluster, he had a pure and noble intention. I realize that now as an adult, and I respect him for that.

That’s not to say that I don’t still feel a smattering of sympathy for Erik–life was cruel to him, and he never really got a fair chance to prove that there was a man behind the face of the monster. But he had a whole lot of issues, way more than Christine would have been able to help him with, and the fact that he lied to her and kidnapped her were honking big warning signs that a relationship with him was the textbook definition of a Very Bad Idea. So in the long run, I’d say that Christine was smart for choosing Raoul. He proved his love for her in all of his actions, in his willingness to sacrifice everything, even his own life, to save her.

Sacrifice and love are inextricably entwined. Never forget that.

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