My first exposure came from a dear friend who was passionate, obsessed really, with the musical. Curiosity threw me forward. I listened with fierce and dedicated determination. Even after I knew the entire libretto by heart, I kept listening and hadn’t grown weary.
The devotion and love The Phantom had for Christine Daaé captivated me. A man who was so mocked, excluded, and misunderstood didn’t just do what people do when they’re infatuated. He shared his love, his art, with her. He not only taught her to sing. Through his tutelage her voice grew and won adoration, even with the most critical audiences. His love for her involved doing something most of us can’t imagine doing for one we love. He let her go.
And through reading the book that inspired Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart to write the musical, Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, I learned that Erik, better known as The Phantom of the Opera, died of heartbreak and unrequited love.
Last Saturday, a week ago today, I saw a Broadway touring, musical production of The Phantom of the Opera. This wasn’t the first time I had seen the performance live. However, the last time I had attended was on December 16, 1994, at Pantages Theatre, in Toronto, Ontario. That was not only fifteen years ago. But also, in that time, I got married, had four children, got divorced, and brushed against too much harshness and cruelty of life to maintain innocence or naïveté about the world.
I admire Erik, also known as Opera Ghost or The Phantom of the Opera, all the more, for at least two reasons.
From the beginning, Erik was judged and deemed unacceptable solely based on his appearance, specifically physical deformities. Yet he chose to love Christine in real, tangible ways. Through what he did, not just what he said or promised. He gave her the gift of music, a most powerful singing voice. Not only that, in the end, he loved her enough to give her a choice to leave. True, sacrificial love in the end.
Yes, The Phantom was anything but perfect. He had an anger problem. And he killed some people. Neither of those is excusable. Ever.
His growth as a person, his maturing in his love for Christine, and him showing her just how much he loved her, even to the point of his death, have me in tears.
The story, told through Gaston Leroux in written form and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart in visual arts, is stunning. Read it. Go see it.