Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Phantom of the Opera Journey

It was during my high school sophomore year when I had been introduced to The Phantom of the Opera. My roommate Ate Elisa brought her box of movie CD's and began endorsing each one of her favorites. No, she didn't rent it for money. She simply wanted to make a legion of fans out of us, her roommates. I remember her collection including Finding Nemo, Pride and Prejudice, and of course, Phantom. I wasn't fond of watching movies back then but I was too shy to decline her generous offer of bringing the Phantom CD home for the weekend. Not when she's too enthused. And so I did brought it home with me.

I invited my eldest sister to watch the movie adaptation starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum with me and she gladly accepted. But when she heard the gothic and too-loud-for-her-taste Overture, she made an excuse to attend to something else. I guess my family has always found my music preference as queer. Too melodramatic, they say. (Michael Bublé and Josh Groban top my list, and I regret nothing!) Well, I like to imagine my taste is just too highbrow! :P

Anyway, digression.

I instantly liked "Think of Me," "Music of the Night" and "All I Ask of You," just because the melody is pleasing to the ears, and the lyrics heartfelt. But to be honest, I was a bit lost on the story. What I only picked up was that the deformed Phantom haunting the opera house falls in love and becomes obsessed with ballet-dancer-turned-opera-star Christine Daaé. He hides behind his mask and disguises himself as her Angel of Music, but only up to the point when he already trusted her enough to lead her down his lair and expose himself as someone real and vulnerable. Then there's Raoul (impeccable name of Vicomte de Chagny), Christine's childhood sweetheart who apparently is the new patron of the opera house. I bear witness to the love triangle, each guy trying to persuade Christine to choose him over the other. All the other details were a bit of a haze. In fact, after Masquerade, I paused the thing and took a nap! Well, I had no appreciation of such things back then so don't blame me. Although some scenes were quite unforgettable--primarily Raoul's proposal (All I Ask of You) and the Phantom's outcry (Reprise)--I still didn't quite like Ate Elisa's movie pick for me.

Fortunately though, I watched it a second time. That time, I have been more open-minded. I guess growing up expands your horizon and makes you more open to possibilities. So instead of relying on just the melody, I learned to delve deeper into the words. And imagine the treasure I've unlocked. The veil that shrouds the beauty from my eyes has finally been lifted. And it was liberating. Who thought Ate Elisa will eventually succeed in recruiting me in her phan-dom a few years later?

I originally thought my Phantom journey will be at a standstill for a long time. Why, the only way I could have moved on from the spot where I was is to actually watch the musical on stage. It is spelled either B-r-o-a-d-w-a-y or W-e-s-t E-n-d. And there's no way in hell I am going to afford that. Not in 10 years or so!

I was silently resuming my life, already oblivious of all my expensive fantasies, when the musical turned 25 last year! And it only meant a grand Royal Albert Hall performance. The show, if I am not mistaken, had a live telecast in London, and was exclusively shown in selected theaters worldwide a week after. In the Philippines, I think only TriNoma and Eastwood cinemas held screenings for it. That chance was too precious to simply let it fly by so, yeah, I did watch it of course.

Watching it on big screen rendered me speechless. It felt so much like the real thing (not that I already knew then how the real thing feels like haha)! There was even a 20-minute intermission between Acts 1 and 2 like the normal show! It's also the first time I got to watch Phantom of the Opera as a musical, performed by no less than Ramin Karimloo as Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine, and Hadley Fraser as Raoul, and it literally had me at the edge of my seat the whole time. Hadley did a great job in making me fall in love with him by being that sweet, gentlemanly knight in shining armor. Plus he slightly resembled Brad Pitt which distracted me for a time. Sierra was perfect with such a powerful voice and a superb acting. Really, the camera caught all her flawless expressions! She was very much in character I cannot imagine some actors like her who can totally make the audience believe that she is the character, and the character is her do exist. Ramin's rendition of Phantom moved me to tears. The trembling of the fingers and the gasp in Music of the Night. The heart-wrenching All I Ask of You reprise. The final blow to the heart that is the Final Lair. Everything was more than a spectator like me could ever hope for. I was completely blown away.

Scene from Music of the Night
And just when I thought God has already heard all my entreaties, He sends the Phantom of the Opera World Tour along the path of the Philippine stage. By March 2012, I have declared with conviction that I am watching on the August to September run in the Cultural Center of the Philippines. But life has a way to intrude in your carefully-laid-out plans--I still didn't have the money come July. Tickets were a bit pricey and I can't just rush to the nearest TicketWorld outlet to purchase passes for the Premium seats, no sir. My mind has already been resolved to the fact that Phantom in Manila is not happening for me when the big announcement of having student discounts circulated in the web. The season was also extended until October 14 and that meant more available seats. Imagine my delight! 

I arranged to watch it on a September Sunday with my sister Elvy. The date, time of performance, and the seats where we'll be seating--everything was decided by me. Until the point when I got hold of our tickets, I swear it felt like it isn't happening. After I got hold of the tickets, I'm pretty sure I heaved a sigh of relief and smiled, very much pleased with myself. It was only during that moment when I finally believed that I am indeed going to witness Phantom of the Opera on stage first-hand.

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