These days, it is hard to go outside to enjoy cultural activities. If Kingos mind that, there is a way that brings London’s West End musicals to the front row of your living room. Currently, Netflix provides live recordings of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall and Les Misérables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary, the two all-time masterpieces. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) now recommends two musicals that have had great success in both music and the quality of work.
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera: The Basics
|The Phantom of the Opera (imdb.com)|
The Phantom of the Opera is based on the 1910 French novel written by Gaston Leroux. The musical is set in a Paris Opera House in the 19th century. It contains a love story involving three people: the beautiful soprano, Christine, the Phantom, who lives in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House, and Raoul, a man who loves Christine. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer, and Cameron Mackintosh, the producer, worked together again, following their success with the musical Cats. It premiered in London in 1986 and New York in 1988. The Phantom of the Opera is the only piece in history that has been performed simultaneously on the West End and Broadway for more than 30 years. It was also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running Broadway performance in 2012. 140 million people have watched this musical in 188 cities in 39 countries in 17 languages. Its first visit to Korea was in 2001, and recently it performed in Busan, Seoul, and Daegu during the 2019-2020 world tour. As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) made theaters shut down around the world, The Phantom of the Opera in Korea during the 2019-2020 season became the only performance of The Phantom of the Opera in the world.
Synopsis of The Phantom of the Opera
In 1905, the Opera house in Paris hosts an auction of old theatrical memorabilia. It begins with a flash back of an elderly Raoul. In the 19th century Paris Opera Theater, a soprano prima donna refuses to perform after a series of mysterious accidents occurred during rehearsals for the opera, Hannibal. At that time, an unknown chorus girl, Christine takes the lead role and sings a song, performing the show successfully.
|The Phantom and Christine (imdb.com)|
In fact, Christine has a secret in that she has a teacher named the ‘Angel of Music’ who teaches her how to sing. The angel is the Phantom of the Opera, and Christine sees him appear in her mirror. The Phantom takes Christine to the shadowy lake under the Opera house. The Phantom reveals a devoted love for Christine and asks her to sing for him. Complying with his request, she sings and takes off his mask out of curiosity. Then she gets frightened because of the Phantom’s grotesquely disfigured face. The heartbroken Phantom takes her back to the theater above. The Phantom makes various demands to the opera’s chief to manipulate Christine. The Phantom causes accidents if his requests are denied. For Christine, who fears the Phantom, her childhood friend Raoul falls in love with her and tracks the Phantom to protect her. The Phantom is jealous of the two and becomes obsessed with Christine.
|Raoul and Christine (imdb.com)|
What makes The Phantom of the Opera a masterpiece?
The most attractive point in The Phantom of the Opera is the music. There is another musical, Phantom, based on the same novel, but what made The Phantom of the Opera unrivaled is the original music. Even if someone has not seen this musical before, one can find a series of numbers that they might have heard of. Sarah Brightman, who played Christine in the premiere and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber were off-screen lovers. He said that he wrote the song thinking only of Sarah Brightman. It sounds more beautiful because the numbers are based on real love. Allowing that the original novel was published more than 100 years ago, however, audiences in 2020 inevitably feel gender stereotype in the musical. If the audience looks at the story from the perspective of The Phantom of the Opera, it is a desperate love story, but from Christine’s point of view, it can be an unpleasant story full of fear. Also, Christine is always under Raul’s protection or at the mercy of the Phantom. Audiences have no idea what she can do other than be terrified. Despite leaving much to be desired, the Phantom’s sub-story with his mask and Christine’s compassion for the Phantom makes the story more convincing. Most of all, the beautiful musical numbers make this work a masterpiece.
|Christine and the Phantom Without His Mask (imdb.com)|
About Les Misérables: The Basics
|Les Miserables (imdb.com)|
Les Misérables is adapted from French poet and novelist Victor Hugo’s novel in 1862. Les Misérablesmeans poor people and contains the image of French society in the 19th century. The musical Les Misérables is now the longest performing musical in London since its premiere in 1985. It was produced by Cameron Mackintosh, the famous musical producer, and was made into a movie of the same name in 2012 and gained huge popularity.
Synopsis of Les Misérables
In 1815 France, Jean Valjean is released on parole after spending 19 years in prison for stealing a piece of bread. Even after being released from prison, Jean Valjean is persecuted by all people just because he is an ex-convict and suffers frustration and despair. Deeply impressed by the Bishop of Digne, who forgives him for stealing silverware, however, Valjean decides to live a new life. Eight years later, in 1823, Valjean has assumed a new identity as Monsieur Madeleine, a wealthy factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Valjean, who helps the poor, comes across a woman named Fantine. Because Fantine is on the verge of death, she asks Jean Valjean to look after her daughter, Cosette. Knowing that there is someone who has been framed instead of him, Valjean declares that he is Jean Valjean. The police inspector Javert, who has chased after him, comes to catch him, but Valjean escapes again, to look for Cosette.
|Stills from Les Miserables Concert in 2019 (lesmis.com)|
|Stills from Les Miserables Concert in 2019 (lesmis.com)|
Interesting Points of Les Misérables
Despite Les Misérables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary consisting of songs from the original musical, it is easy to understand the story because the original Les Misérables is a sung-through musical with no lines.
The music of Les Misérables is also very famous. Work Song, which marks the beginning of the play, Do You Hear the People Sing? One Day More and I Dreamed a Dream are popular with people. In particular, Do You Hear the People Sing? is used in various actual demonstrations until now because of its clear meaning in the lyrics and overwhelming melody.
Also, what should be noted in the musical Les Misérables is the confrontation between Jean Valjean and Javert. It may seem like Jean Valjean and Javert are good and evil. In fact, however, the two chase only their own good. Javert believes that a criminal like Valjean can never change for the better and should be punished by law, so he confronts Valjean. In the musical Les Misérables, the number The Confrontationdirectly shows the confrontation between the two, but also expresses the confrontation through a reprise of the same melody. When Valjean saves Javert’s life in Act 2, Javert feels confused with his beliefs. At this moment, Javert’s Soliloquy has the same melody as What have I done? by Jean Valjean when he receives a silver candlestick from the Bishop in Act 1. The two sing the same melody, but their choice is the opposite. Valjean decides to live a new life, while Javert commits suicide. Which is right? It depends on Kingo’s beliefs.
|Curtain Call of Les Miserables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary (wooler.com)|
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