The Phantom’s 25th Anniversary

Caterina Franchi

I was just one, in 1986, when this strange guy from London called Andrew Lloyd Webber composed one of the greatest musicals ever, The Phantom of the Opera, and nineteen when Joel Schumacher directed the movie based on this theatrical piece. After seven years, I have to thank that day I went to the cinema to watch this movie, and found such a thrilling, sad and complete music, because it was the beginning of a life experience that brought me to have now more than 40 musicals in my music library and to have assisted to a lot of performances all around Europe.

I was twenty-three the first time I saw The Phantom of the Opera in London, at Her Majesty’s Theatre, in 2008. I knew the music and the lyrics by hearth, by that time, having listened to it tens and tens of times, I knew the story and I saw so many photos that I thought I knew everything. But words cannot describe the thrill every single note created on my back, the pain that arose for all the suffering The Phantom showed, the jump I had when the chandelier fell on the public – yes, on the public, some centimetres from the heads of everybody. It is a show that has been running for many years, more than twenty, and, like other musicals such as Les Misérables, the directing has little changed from the beginning, but there is no boredom ever, there is always a surprise. Always a thrill.

I was twenty-six when The Phantom feasted, on October 9th 2011, its 25th anniversary. The big concert set for this occasion was held at the Royal Albert Hall on October 2nd, and not a single show was scheduled, but two, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. I had been searching for the tickets for months, but I must admit that the prices were prohibitive – they even touched hundreds of pounds. But England has this strange and lovely habit: such important spectacles are also shown in cinemas, in live broadcasting. I was there, at the cinema, sit with a dear friend of mine, when the clapping began to resound everywere, in this incredibly Dolby Surround effect that emprisoned us, made us one with the music. And everything began. Ramin Karimloo as The Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine and Hadley Fraser as Raoul created magic one more time. It was an astonishing scene construction, a tremendous game of lights and of colours: with just a single, not turning stage and two surrounding stairs the Opéra Garnier was recreated, its ballet performed with a blinding twist of modernity and classicism, and from an upper stage the orchestra filled with its accompaniment a whole theatre that stood silent and immote watching the miracle happening once again.

Yes, I think that the word “miracle” is not an abuse. I think that the crying I heard in the cinema and in the Hall when, at the end, The Phantom sings to Christine that she alone can make his song take flight had always been and will always be integral part of this never-ending show. I think that the gasp that fills the air every time that Christine takes the mask away from The Phantom is something that exceeds sense and logic. At the concert, the amazing stage design by Matt Kinley, inspired by Maria Björnson’s original work in 1986, the lighting by Patrick Woodroffe and Andrew Bridge, the  orchestral direction by Laurence Connor were just completed not only with the amazing performances of the singers, but also with the guest stars: Andrew Lloyd Webber himself appeared, at the end of the show, introducing Sarah Brightman, the first Christine and his ex-wife, for whom the role was created, and Michael Crawford, the first incredible Phantom. And, as a recall to what had been done for the 25th anniversary of Les Misérables, a final quatuor completed the psychological moving and incredible thrilling of all the spectacle: John Owen Jones, Colm Wilkinson, Peter Jöback and Ramin Karimloo, together with Sarah Brightman, performed the song Phantom of the Opera (the one everybody knows, yes, you too, with that repeting note!) and then Music of the Night, the credo of the Phantom himself.

The DVD has now been released, and the videos are all around the web. The success has been extraordinary, and it has set just the beginning of a new era for is the longest-running Broadway, the second longest-running West End musical, and the third longest-running West End show overall.

What I know is that when I am already waiting for the moment I will be 51, and we will all celebrate the 50th anniversary. Because the music of the night will never be over.


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