Phantom of the Opera

January 2005
Phantom of the Opera

Everyone else has been back to work and school.
What has Barbee' been doing?

By the time we arrived home from all our Christmas travels, Younger Son and I were sick of flu-like viruses. (We're still coughing.) He soon continued to New York. I was glad I had reached the end of my trip for all I could do was sit with a box of tissues, sniff, sneeze, cough, blow, and wash hands, each about a thousand times... I also tried to read; there wasn't much else I could do.

I had finished my new Christmas book from Elder Son and Daughter-By-Love, and having already started Husband/Best Friend's new book (President Carter's historic novel The Hornet's Nest), I finished reading it - being careful to wash hands well after each blow so I wouldn't contaminate Husband/Best Friend's new book and make him sick, too. In the meanwhile, he left for another trip, this time to Tennessee to be with his mother for several days.

Being ill, I was housebound, but the day came when I was feeling ever so slightly better and thought: I must! get out of this house and go for my allergy shots which were nearly overdue. That was Tuesday last week, and then, because I was feeling restless from being inside so much, I went from there to see the movie "Phantom of the Opera".

It was the 3:30 p.m. showing, there was no crowd at all; and arriving too early, I had my choice of seats. I ate yucky cough drops in an effort to keep me quiet so I, and others, could enjoy the movie thoroughly. Afterward, I came out almost sick from the cough drops and feeling as if I'd been through an emotional and psychological wringer! Even now, the music keeps going through my head.

Later, I browsed the Internet and read about the stage show, the movie, and the book. What I found intrigued me and caused me to want to read certain books - if I could find them.

So, next day I went on-line again and checked our public libraries to see if I could find the books I wanted. I found that two were available, but at different library branches. I very much wanted them ALL IN-HAND THAT DAY.

I enjoyed getting out of the house again to go to two libraries for the two books. The third one was not available. I wound up buying that one during a pleasant browse in a favorite upscale bookstore.

Of course, while I was out running around - I decided I really should eat lunch - you know: feed a cold - starve a fever, and now that I was out, I really should treat myself. The sick always deserve a little pampering.

Then due to predictions of bad weather on its way, I gassed up the car and checked its oil, stopped by the grocery store for a few items, then went by Local Daughter's house to leave some things. In all, it took me in a large circle, then back to our house, The Cottage at Crocker Croft.

I brought in the mail, locked up the house, put on bedroom slippers, made a cup of herb tea, filled yet another glass of water for sipping to try to subdue the hateful cough - then I read, and read, and read... for four days and nights I read. Being home alone, it was quiet, and I was able to forget everything else and slip into these books and read as long as I wanted - going to bed three mornings, blissfully happy, at 2:30 a.m.

While I read I was vicariously walking the streets of Paris and prowling the bowels of the Opera House. I knew three of our family members were there in Paris for a few days; I felt as if I were with them for I thought of them often as I read. (Ha! I had no idea what was really going on with them - later I learned one took a tumble and had to be patched up. I'm so sorry that happened! Maybe reading books was safer than actually being there.)

I knew Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage show and the movie were based on a book of the same name, which was written by Gaston Leroux. What I didn't know, but learned while browsing the Internet: that Leroux's story was apparently inspired by the book Trilby by George Du Maurier, although, George Perry didn't mention that in his book, The Complete Phantom of the Opera. Those are the three books I read, starting with Perry's:

The Complete Phantom of the Opera by George Perry
Trilby by George Du Maurier
Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Complete Phantom of the Opera gives information and history of the Paris Opera House including a section-drawing of the building showing its grand scale; tells about the creation of the stage show; contains the complete libretto; and a section on Leroux, his life, and his writings. I wish I had read it before I saw the movie.

The Opera House is 17 stories high, seven of which are underground; there are five levels of basements and cellars, and under that(!!) a natural lake! I didn't know about the lake. During the movie I thought they were in the Paris sewer under the building; I was glad to find out otherwise!

Next I read Trilby. Then I read The Phantom of the Opera. The two stories are very much alike. In The Phantom the girl's name is Christine, in the other one she is Trilby.

Trilby was written by George Du Maurier, grandfather of writer Daphne Du Maurier, and has a preface written by her father, Gerald Du Maurier. (Hers was a family of writers and artists living part time in Cornwall.) It took me three chapters to get "into" the nineteenth-century-writing-style, but by then I found it delightful. It is a sweet story and it is easy to see why it's thought Leroux borrowed the idea for his own book.

Lastly, I read Leroux's Phantom of the Opera. Numerous (or as one writer said "innumerable") stage plays, movies (both silent and talkies), and radio shows have been made of it... made and some remade.

There is no way every single thing in the book could be put into a stage show or a movie, however, I think Webber took the best parts and did an excellent job of molding the story into his own version.

Webber wrote the role of Christine for his, at that time, wife Sarah Brightman to showcase her vast vocal range. In the movie Emmy Rossum carries the role beautifully and appears to be too young to be so good. A few weeks ago she was the featured interview in "Parade Magazine"; I thought I read there: it took four years to make the movie and she was sixteen when they started, but a later newspaper article said she is now eighteen years old... so it must have been two years. Her voice is beautiful and I can see - or rather, heard - why she has performed at the Metropolitan opera.

Thankfully, there is some comedy relief, which is needed. Someone said, "It's an opera within an opera." And that is where the fun and silliness came in.

Gerard Butler made an effective phantom and commanded the screen.

Before I went, I had to decide if I wanted to see it badly enough to endure loud organ music; I don't like organ music, but I knew it would have to be there and have to be loud for a Gothic story. As loud and intense as it is, I think the movie is lighter than the book. If Husband/Best Friend decides to go see it, I want to go with him and see it again.

I've read some reviews of the movie that really cut it to pieces; I didn't think it that bad, but then, I know I am a romantic in the old fashioned sense of the word. Of the books, Phantom was easier to read, but I think Trilby is the better book.

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