Lately as I’ve been falling asleep, melodies learned by heart in childhood have been playing in my head. As a girl I was totally and completely obsessed with the musical, The Phantom of the Opera. I listened to the original cast recording over and over and over again. I read the book by Gaston Laroux. My family drove more than four hours so I could see the musical performed live. Looking back, it’s not such a mystery why the story gripped my imagination. I was a young musician with great potential, overflowing with passion for my art, and I had no idea how to navigate a career in the professional music world. If only I’d known that I, like the Phantom‘s protagonist, Christine, would never find true happiness in that world.
My well-worn Phantom of the Opera cassettes are long since lost, but I checked in with streaming music services to see if I could find the album. To my surprise, in addition to the original cast recording, I came across a film soundtrack. Someone actually made a movie out of the musical! Since I (still) know the original cast recording by heart, I was eager to compare film soundtrack with my beloved, original cast recording.
The film version rocked up the score a little, but not too much. Andrew Lloyd Webber excelled at telling his story with music, and not much needed to be changed. I’d had so much trouble imagining the role of Christine without original cast member, Sarah Brightman, for whom the role was originally written. In the film soundtrack, Young Emmy Rossum’s Christine was less virtuosic than Brightman’s, but I actually preferred it. Rossum imbued her singing with so many different colors and emotions. She could be shy and girlish, flirty, terrified, womanly– and that’s from listening to the soundtrack, never having seen the film– she expressed everything in song. Likewise, this Raoul expressed a lot of personality using a more subdued, character-driven singing style. I was less convinced by the Phantom in the film soundtrack. My Phantom will always be Michael Crawford. His over the top theatricality embodies the the character, the obsessive recluse, lost in the melodrama of his own misery, living in the margins of the world of the stage.
Having heard the soundtrack, I would absolutely watch the movie. I have a feeling finding it online will be a whole lot easier than the four hour drive made to see the musical on stage all those years ago!