BY IRIDE APARICIO
Photos by: Mathew Murphy
San Francisco, CA— A transparent black stage curtain simulating to be covered by large strips of cobwebs, allows the audience to see some of the objects about to be auctioned off standing on the stage. When the curtain raises, the Auctioneer starts shouting: “Lot 664, a rolled poster from the “Opera Hannibal.” “Lot 665, a music box with a ceramic monkey playing the cymbals.” Lot 666 a huge beautiful Crystal candelabrum that at one time hung from the roof of the Opera House is Paris.
On August 26th, as part of the 2014-2015 SHN Season, with great expectations from the audience, the Cameron Mackintosh’s Spectacular new Production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM Of The OPERA opened to the press at the SHN Orpheum Theatre.
Our expectations were met by the production, it is magnificent. And while the story of the new PHANTOM seem to be moving a little too fast in the first act, the drama is there, the acting is masterful and the work is visual in costumes and sets.
We start our story with an exotic set (Paul Brown) of the Middle-East. The production is the opera “Hannibal,” which is being presented by the Paris Opera. On the stage, as Hannibal, is tenor Ubaldo Piangi (Frank Viveros) who is singing with soprano Carlotta Guidichelli (Jaquelynne Fontaine).
The Paris' Opera’s production, which includes a ballet, is very elaborate. The voice of tenor Piangi (Viveros) is full in sound, and powerful in volume. He can reach his highest tones easily. The voice of Carlotta,(Fontaine) the Opera’s soprano has a marvelous timbre filled with musicality. Perhaps, that is the only “but” in this new production, That the voice of Fontaine is as beautiful in sound and quality as the voice of Christine Daaé (Katie Travis) Here we should add that in this production which includes Chris Mann in the role of Phantom and Storm Lineberger as Raoul Viscontie de Chagny, in the principal roles, all the singers’ voices have excellent quality.
The story in this production of “Phantom” is the same: A ballerina who after being trained to sing by a person who everbody calls “Phantom,” but she calls “The Angel of Music,” learns to sing. In the process, we also learn that "Phantom" is really a musical genious whose face-deformed. Because of it, he hides his face behind a white mask and lives in the catacombs of the Opera house in Paris. When "Phantom" who is in love with Christine, sees that she is about to falls in love with another man, he kidnapps her and takes her to his house.
Yet, while the story is the same, there is something different in the dialogue of this new production (with book by Richard Stilgoe & Andrew Lloyd Webber) that presents to the audience a more humane “Phantom.” We learn more about his life by Madame Giry (Anne Kanengeiser) and even learn to care for him. The Phantom that was shown to the audiencie at the end in this production was so human, and the role was so well-acted by Mann, that even when we already knew the ending of the story, it brought tears to your eyes.
Phantom is a love story but has the pathos of a Greek tragedy. The story of a musician, filled with passion,who loves a woman he knows that will never love him back brakes our hearts He has nothing, but in his love, he gives her, the only thing he has: "The gift of music". Sadly, the woman falls in love with another man. Yet, remains grateful to her “Angel of Music” as she calls him, and she“loves him” not with passionate love, but she cares for him. Her tragedy is that she does not want anybody to hurt him, but eventually she will.
Accompanied by the beautiful melodies of Webber such as the romantic “The Music of the Night” the powerful “The Phantom of the Opera” and the ode of joy “Masquerade.” to name a few, this musical absorbs our attention completely. Most of us have seen it before, but because this time, we got to know the character of “Phantom” a little better, we no longer see him as a monster. We now understand that he is just a tragic man, who in spite of his genius, has been rejected all his life by every one, for no other reason than because he “looks different.” Since half of his face does not look perfect, people probably laughed at him or screamed when seeing his face, so he has been condemned to hide it behind a mask and hide himself from people all his life. Yet, at the end, he shows us the nobility of his soul. He was a man who received nothing from the world, but he gives somehing to the world: He gives it all his suffering converted in the notes of his Opera.
The original story of “Le Fantôme de L’opéra” was written in l910 by a French novelist by the name of GASTON LEROUX. The story was inspired by the historical events at the Paris Opera during the 19th Century. It was first published as a serialization from September 23, l909 to January 8, l910 and when it first appeared serially, it received only moderate sales and poor reviews.
It took a movie from Hollywood (l925) by the same name, to give the story popularity. In l986 with lyrics by Charles Hart and additions from Richard Stilgoe, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music for the musical and parts of the musical book with Stilgoe. "PHANTOM" premiere in her Majesty’s Theatre in London on October 9, l986 and it has been a success ever since winning many awards around the world.
THE PHANTOM of the OPERA will play at the SHN ORPHEUM Theatre until October. For tickets online go to shnsf.com or call 888-746-l799