|About this Recording
NA237412 - LEROUX, G.: Phantom of the Opera (The) (Abridged)
Most people have heard of The Phantom of the Opera, probably associating it with Andrew Lloyd Webber's successful musical or perhaps the Hollywood film of 1921. How many people, however, have read the novel by the Frenchman Gaston Leroux—let alone heard it? They are missing a treat.
The Phantom of the Opera is a horror story which reflects all the opulence of the age. It was written in 1911 and the story is set in mid-nineteenth century Paris. Gaston Leroux, who had the dubious privilege of being born on the train between Paris and Normandy, worked first as a lawyer and then as a journalist before becoming a prolific novelist. These early experiences and love of Paris give a definite flavour to the novel.
However, it is his knowledge of and fascination with the Paris Opera House that provides the authentic backdrop to the plot. It is here that the gothic tale of horror is played out. Gaston Leroux maps out the Opera's corridors and dark passages, traces its workshops, sweeps us through the wings onto its stage, climbs with us into its roof space and then drags us down into its labyrinths.
This is an obsessive love story full of contrasts. The plush glamour of the front of house contrasts with the other face of the Opera—the fearsome chill of the cellars. This is replicated in the beautiful young life-affirming heroine, Christine, and her opposite, Erik, the hideous monster who belongs to the underworld. We, the audience, are absorbed and mystified: who is this grotesque man in the mask? Illusion and reality criss-cross in rapid succession. ‘Is it a ghost?’ the ballet girls cry. We are led to believe that it must be, but then what is real and what is not? Everything else seems so normal, but can ghosts really write letters?
The story taps our darkest thoughts and most romantic dreams. In one sense we are part of a battle between good and evil, as Christine struggles against the pull of the embittered Erik. He has a real and dangerous power, the power to teach her how to sing like an angel. She needs him, yet at what cost?
Add to these rich ingredients a couple of buffoon managers, a lovesick viscount and a wizard of a Persian who acts as a go-between 'twixt light and dark and you have an operatic plot with elements of fairy tale, pantomime and farce.
And yet there is a serious element as well. As the story progresses we learn more about the feelings of tragic Erik. We begin to feel sorry that life has delivered him such a terrible burden to bear. He is a man who needs love, whose own mother could not bring herself to look at him. This drives him to the brink of insanity. He is capable of evil deeds and we get a glimpse into the workings of a criminally deranged mind.
The Phantom of the Opera lends itself perfectly to audio. Its prose is elegant and musical, pleasing to the ear with its cadences and rhythms. Take a deep breath and delve into the mysteries of the Opera.
Notes by Jan Fielden
The music on this recording is taken from the NAXOS catalogue
French Organ Music
BERLIOZ Harold in Italy
FRANCK Symphony in D minor/Prelude
Chorale and Fugue
Organ Showpieces from St Paul’s Cathedral
Soprano Arias from Italian Operas
Famous French Overtures
MASSENET Orchestral Suites
WEBER An Invitation to the Dance
Music programmed by Jan Fielden
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