In sleep he sang to me,
in dreams he came . . .
That voice which calls to me
and speaks my name . . .
And do I dream again?
For now I find
the Phantom of the Opera
is there -
inside my mind . . .
The sheer concept of brilliance behind those lyrics are one of the theatre’s most tantalizing secrets. Since 1986, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterful take on Gaston Leroux’s legendary novel, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra
, known to us as The Phantom of the Opera
, has captivated audiences the world over. Blending elements of gothic fiction, horror, romance, mystery, and tragedy, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra
seemed to contain all of the necessary ingredients to become a runaway success on the Broadway stage. Ever astute, Lloyd Webber painted a beautiful portrait of anecdotal and musical bliss. And was it successful? To date, the musical The Phantom of the Opera
is (currently) the longest running show on the Broadway stage, and the highest grossing entertainment event of all time (lapsing even that of the highest grossing motion picture in history, 1998’s Titanic
From the fruits of these triumphs, was borne Highlights of the Phantom of the Opera
. Originally released on Compact Disc on October 25th, 1990 as a one-disc showcase of the original cast’s greatest efforts, Highlights
has held a special place in my heart since my introduction to it as a child. The focus of this review is on the original release of this compilation, not on the later two disc version. Due to this fact, whilst listening to this CD, you have to come to the realization that you’re missing out. Highlights
is a compromise by definition. Clocking in at a mere 59 minutes (40 shorter than the dual disc version), Highlights
manages to maintain the core elements of the musical’s orchestrations and plot, yet omits most of the scenes that add texture and movement to the overall story. In short: If you’re looking to learn the whole story behind characters Christine Daaé, Raoul Vicomte de Chagny, and of course the Phantom himself, amongst others, then you would be best served by going to see the play itself (or at least purchasing a longer version of this album); however, if you simply wish to immerse yourself in the overall Phantom
feel, then you will be well served here.
From the legendary orchestrated “Overture" to the moving “Music of the Night" to the conclusion with “Track Down this Murderer," Highlights of the Phantom of the Opera
is a pure expression of how everything can go right while you’re writing music. While Lloyd Webber’s primary inspiration for his musical came from Ken Hill’s own version (which Lloyd Webber saw at the Theatre Royal Stratford East [London, England] in 1984), the legendary composer’s intellect and unique intuitive vision shine through. I really can’t express in words what pure exhilaration can be derived from this music. As soon as the album begins with the iconic organ-driven Phantom
Overture, you can begin to scope the depths to which music can connect with emotion. Emotions of anger, hatred, regret, agony, turmoil, and ultimately death are sharpened into arrow heads that pierce even the most casual of listeners.
The music in general is stunning. A mixture of orchestrations convey theses raw emotions that drive Phantom
through its phases. Most of the music is already well-known, having been adopted in “clone" plays, or other entertainment outlets. Perfect synergy keeps the actor’s voices well in line with the music itself. At times, things can appear to get a little too hectic, as the balance between actual singing and something like crazed screaming, tips. At times like these you have to remember that Phantom
is, after all, a horror story, and Highlights
does contain several of the most horrific scenes. Overall, listening to this CD will take a lot out of you, but in the end, it’s very rewarding experience.
Aside from what you can draw from the music itself, that much (and possibly even more) can be drawn from the lyrics. Charles Hart shows off his incredible talent as a lyricist on Phantom
. Take for example the following selections:
The song “Angel of Music" in which the protégé-to-be of the Phantom, young soprano Christine Daaé hears the Phantom’s hypnotic voice calling to her for the first time. She sings:
Father once spoke of an angel . . .
I used to dream he'd appear . . .
Now as I sing, I can sense him . . .
And I know he's here...
On the song “Phantom of the Opera," the Phantom reveals himself; commanding Christine to sing for him:
Sing once again with me our strange
duet . . .
My power over you grows stronger
yet . . .
And though you turn from me,
to glance behind,
the Phantom of the Opera is there -
inside your mind . . .
The Phantom continues to intoxicate young Christine on “The Music of the Night" singing:
Let the dream begin,
let your darker side give in
to the power of the music that I write -
the power of the music of the night . . .
In the lighthearted “Masquerade" people with connections to the Opera Garnier (which the Phantom terrorizes) sing an elating chorus of:
Masquerade! Paper faces on parade . . .
Masquerade! Hide your face, so the world will
never find you! Masquerade!
Every face a different shade . . .
Masquerade! Look around -there's another
mask behind you!
These are only a small sampling of the lyrical triumphs contained within Highlights
. I do not wish to debauch from the overall importance to the plot of Phantom
contained in such songs as “Think of Me," “Prima Donna," “The Point of No Return," as well as the others. However, the point of this review is simply to convey to you, the reader, the overall feeling that is The Phantom of the Opera
. As I mentioned before, if you wish to go into detail with the plot, you’d do better to actually see the musical on Broadway (I highly recommend this; it’s worth the time).
Again, I must admit that I find it terribly hard to review this, as it’s fully meaning can only be drawn out by experiencing the music itself. Next to the much vaunted Jesus Christ Superstar
, The Phantom of the Opera
is Lloyd Webber’s greatest masterpiece. It is truly an alluring episode that should be known to all who can appreciate that which it has to offer. Highlights
is legendary by association. A few repeated listens, and you’ll be able to see why this musical is the most popular entertainment event in the world. I would have to say the only flaw I can find with the one disc version of Highlights from the Phantom of the Opera
is its overall longevity. But then again, there’s only so much content you can put on one CD. Either way, I strongly recommend exploring what the Phantom
has to offer. If you can keep a somewhat-open mind for a little less than an hour, you may be impressed beyond words. I can tell you that from personal experience.