Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Angel of Music, You Deceived Me

In my teens and twenties, I was a huge Phantomane...I saw Phantom of the Opera twice while I was living in London, with about two-thirds of the original cast. I've also seen it twice in the States, once in New York and again with a touring company in Louisville. A small clip of the overture prefaced our answering machine announcement my senior year of college, and my friend Angie and I once beat time on the ceiling of her now-husband's apartment in time to the overture in order to aggravate my ex-boyfriend who lived in the apartment directly upstairs.

Even then, I realized that my fondness for the show stemmed in some part from my identification with the plot. The Phantom, shunned because he was disfigured, had a brilliant (if twisted) mind and rather singular talent. He made the mistake of falling in love with Christine, who was a pretty good singer, albeit quite vapid and not all that bright. So, there I was, shunned by society for my looks and intelligence, and in love with a boy who a) was totally out of my reach, b) didn't know how I felt and/or want to acknowledge me, and c) would never be capable of returning my feelings. I'm not big on romantic plots- but something about the rejection that drove Erik to madness and desperation resonated with me.

Instinctively, I had always known that ingenue roles always went to the pretty girls with the light, high soprano. The ingenue always gets her man, even if it's not the more interesting one. Phantom is ultimately about Christine making the safe choice and returning to the handsome, 'normal' guy, and an ordinary life...because it doesn't matter how smart or talented Erik was; he's deformed, he doesn't think or function like everybody else, and he's just plain weird, which makes him unacceptable (well, that, and he kills people who make him feel threatened).

If I am honest about what Hopkins said on that ill-fated evening about a month and a half ago, I can best illustrate it by saying that I painted an overly-flattering portrait of him with the brush of long-standing affection. As he construed it, it was false or dishonest (I thought I was the most self-critical person I know) but I have a right to my lens/my 'version'. There's also quite a difference between tortured genius and simple failure; I have a better understanding now of Christine's disillusionment when she discovered the truth about Erik, even if I disliked her as a character.

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