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"Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams."
I’ve never seen The Phantom of the Opera. I have, however, played the entire songbook on my piano a thousand times, listened to the original London cast soundtrack a million times on cassette; I’ve read the book, and seen a made-for-tv version of it. I was like nine or ten and at home alone with my sister during one of those long nights when our parents weren’t gonna come home. It was a profound cultural experience. How profound, you ask? Y’all…I convinced myself NBC was the superior television network for the ensuing decade because they’d been the one to produce this miniseries and I stg if anyone knows anyone who was involved in its production, you should send them my way. I have two dozen long stem roses for them.
And yet, I have not seen the musical, and I gotta admit that finding out it’s closing on Broadway is making me feel a way. Would watching it now be an act of closure or is it more poetic to refuse the original? My interpretations feel like AI generated art or Ghanaian movie posters, and I’m afraid of losing that uncanny. I think seeing it would just disappoint me but maybe I ought to put it to bed, actually.
I know why I love Phantom. I’m not an Andrew Lloyd Webber groupie, but Phantom represents accessible “opera style” and the catchiness of synthetic and legible libretti that would become de rigueur decades later. More importantly, I’m obsessed with the romanticism of a doomed relationship. For some of us, it was enough as children that anybody recognized our innate significance; whatever made us unique. Chance and circumstances make it impossible for most of us to be recognized for talent, but the mutuality of respect between an orphan and an ogre was literally divine. Isn’t that what a relationship with god looks like—the invisible finding each other in a netherworld?
I’m listening to the soundtrack again and forgot that there’s a synth orchestra. It’s comically corny. Totally 1980s. I mean at least when I played it on the piano it was just bad. The relationship between the wine-like soprano, Christine, and the strawberry Pocky-flavored alto, the Phantom—my spirit and your voice—is ridiculous. I should be embarrassed. And it’s hilariously melodramatic for a kid to solo herself into such a massive dramaturgy of mid-life proportions.
I’m smiling listening to this soundtrack now. I can see myself in the sixth grade, friendless and depressed, convincing herself she had a benevolent stalker where the vacancy of guardians and shepherds laid welcome mats for more nefarious opportunists that never arrived. This shit made her so happy. I’m lucky I became obsessed not just with being seen but with becoming talented. I’d get over Phantom in time to become an esoteric snob and I probably have to thank this soundtrack.
I will crash a chandelier every night for as long as it takes for her to feel my watch.