The first I heard of it (that I remember) was with my first voice teacher. She had me singing Think of Me and, at some point, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, I believe...
Then I found a video of Sarah Brightman and Antonio Banderas (who knew he could sing?) singing The Phantom of the Opera (dun dun dun dun dun dunnn...) and fell in love with the song. (Plus, I like Sarah Brightman's music in general.)
Then my friend Highlight saw the musical and sent me a video of Masquerade, which I thought was rather wonderful.
Then my piano teacher had me playing All I Ask of You.
And my other friend had a book about the history of the musical. And a book of music from the musical and she came over and I played some of it in the organ we have in our garage.
And then I was at the thrift store and saw the book by Gaston Leroux and bought it for $2.50.
This all happened over a period of probably four years.
I knew by the time I found the book that I would fall in love with the musical whenever I watched it.
Another year or so passed.
I found out my youth leader owned a copy of the movie and I borrowed it, intending to watch it... and never did. We had it for probably 6 months before I finally gave it back. Haha. Whoops.
Fast forward a few more months. The date, sometime in February, 2014. I found the Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary at Royal Albert Hall (2011) on youtube and watched half that night, and the rest on the next night.
I've seen it three or four more times since then, and have read the book. And re-watched the Phantom of the Opera/Music of the Night, Final Lair, Notes, and Masquerade scenes too many times to count.
Ramin Karimloo plays the Phantom and Sierra Boggess plays Christine.
Raoul is played by Hadley Fraser, who is also in a Doctor Who episode!
There are a whole bunch of other characters too... such as the theater owners, Andre and Firmin.
In the musical - and in the book too, I suppose - Andre and Firmin are the comic relief. The guys who play them in the 25th anniversary are absolutely wonderful.
There's also Carlotta and Piangi, the opera's main singers (though they hardly play a part in the book - especially Piangi, who isn't in the book at all, I believe).
They are also comic relief.
Lastly, there's Madame Giry and her daughter Meg.
In the musical, Madame Giry is the dance instructor-person, while in the book, she's simply Meg's mother, who keeps the Phantom's box. (What's up with her weird headband of hair thing? It's very distracting.)
So what's The Phantom of the Opera about?
It's your basic love triangle, with some different twists... The book and musical vary, but the bones of the plot are the same.
Christine, who works in the opera, starts taking voice lessons from the mysterious "Angel of Music," whom she thinks her dead father has sent to her.
The Angel of Music turns out to be a deformed man (in the novel, named "Erik") living underneath the Paris Opera House. He "haunts" the opera and everyone knows him as "The Phantom of the Opera" or "the Opera Ghost." He falls in love with Christine and wants to force her to marry him and live with him forever.
But then Raoul, a childhood friend of Christine, a vicomte, shows up, and they fall in love and become engaged.
Of course, the Phantom isn't too pleased about this and he kidnaps Christine. When Raoul tries to rescue his fiance, the Phantom at first traps him, but in the end, has pity on the couple, and lets them go off together to get married. "Share with me... one love... one lifetime..."
In the musical, the Phantom mysteriously disappears underneath his cloak. In the book, he ends up dying "of love."
The book is a Gothic novel, and is, therefore, dark in atmosphere and mysterious. Also, really none of the characters have redeeming qualities.
Andre and Firmin are selfish and greedy... so are Carlotta and Piangi, and Madame Giry.
Christine is just kind of there. She doesn't do much, except be the object of the Phantom and Raoul's love.
Raoul is a lovesick puppy whose all-consuming thoughts are about Christine.
The Phantom kills people to get what he wants and, on top of that, is kind of a creepy stalker person. (He has a secret passageway behind Christine's mirror.)
Out of all the characters, I think that the Phantom is one of my favorites. I like him better than Raoul. For mainly two reasons.
1. I pity him. Because of his deformities, he wasn't loved as a child. Out of that grew his murderous ways.
2. His compassion. I read this one blog post where the person was saying that they disliked Phantom, and were glad that Christine went away with Raoul, because Phantom was a murderer and there's no excuse for the things he did. While I agree with that, I think there's something that blogger was forgetting. At the end, he shows compassion to Raoul and to Christine. He was going to kill Raoul, and force Christine to marry himself, but then he decided to let both of them go - to be happy. He put someone else above himself for once, and I think that counts for something.
My favorite character is sadly not in the musical. He is only known as "The Persian" in the book. He knew Erik before Erik became "The Phantom of the Opera." He knew Erik when Erik worked for a princess of a far-off land. Erik, a master contractor and builder, designed a torture chamber for the princess' amusement, but, because he was too smart, she was going to have him put to death. The Persian, a policeman, rescued Erik, and then followed him to England.
I think the Persian represents the audience reading the book. He's horrified at what Erik has done, but he still feels drawn to him for some reason. He helps Raoul to find Christine - like any person would do - even though he could be seen as the Phantom's one "friend" ("Friends? I don't have friends!") - because he knew it was right.
Changing gears completely, let's talk about the music from the musical!
The musical is by Andrew Lloyd Webber. He originally put it on Broadway in the 1980's, I believe. He wrote the music for Christine especially for his then-wife Sarah Brightman.
The music is wonderful. It's on the darker, sappier, get-stuck-in-your-head-for-weeks-on-end side... but I really don't mind it. (Well... to a certain point.)
Actually, a lot of the music is rather similar. For the life of me I can't keep Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, All I Ask of You, and Think of Me straight. They're so similar.
What really impresses me is the range of the music. You have to have a fantastic vocal range to sing the music in Phantom. Take the above song ("The Phantom of the Opera") for example. Christine starts on the G below middle C. The highest note at the very end is two E's above middle C!
That probably doesn't mean much to non-musical people... But that's an incredible range. My range right now is about an F below middle C to high C (I believe that's high C... two above middle C... Not sure though).
Slowly but surely, I'm making my way up to that high E. I can make it on good days, if I'm very relaxed. Thank goodness there are no words up there! Just "ahhh!"
Anyway... enough about ranges. My point is that almost every single song in the entire musical has a range that big! Isn't that crazy? You pretty much have to be a well-trained vocalist to be in this musical, unless you're naturally a coloratura soprano (aka, a really light, high, trilly soprano. Usually operatic. Even then, unless you want to hurt your voice by singing up there, you're gonna want training).
A lot of the songs in Phantom of the Opera are reprised throughout, with different lyrics, or sung by someone else, or in different context.
Here are some of my favorite musical numbers:
The Phantom of the Opera/Music of the Night. This is near the beginning of the musical, when the Phantom first takes Christine down to his lair. The Phantom of the Opera song is one that nearly everyone knows, and I've loved it for a good long while. Music of the Night just seems to fit with it, and is very pretty. Though, I admit, I probably wouldn't go searching specifically for Music of the Night to listen to everyday, unless it had The Phantom of the Opera attached to it.
Probably my favorite song in the entire musical is "Notes" (it's one of my favorite parts in the book too). Everyone keeps getting notes from the mysterious O.G. ("Who is he? *light bulb* Opera Ghost!"). It's a pretty funny song, acted wonderfully in the 25th.
Another of my favorite songs is I Remember. It's not so much of a song as a melody that weaves throughout the whole musical. It's really mystical and just pretty.
And finally, Masquerade. This is the first scene that I ever saw from The Phantom of the Opera. It's really wonderful. Not only is the music great, the costumes are AMAZING. So many! Plus, it's a masquerade, and who can resist those? I love how the music starts out sort of comical and soft and then BAM! everyone starts singing and dancing.
Why do I love the Phantom of the Opera so much? I couldn't even tell you. It's probably the same reason I loved Wuthering Heights. But I just can't put my finger on it.
Would I recommend it? I don't know that either. Haha. It's a great musical, but it does have some stuff in it that I wouldn't show to kids.The first half is really wonderful, but the second half gets quite a bit darker and serious. There's one song that should definitely be skipped. I tend to just skip over most of the second half, except for the Final Lair part, which is the end. And Masquerade, which is at the beginning of the second half. Why is it that musicals have to get so much darker after intermission? The same things happens in West Side Story. The first part is wonderful, and the second part is just... eh. With one or two good songs/scenes.
I don't think I could ever call The Phantom of the Opera my favorite musical or book... It's more of a guilty pleasure watch/read. Like a chick-flick, only darker and sadder.
And there you have it!
"It's over now... the music of the night!"