The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

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The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  LadyCDaae on Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:29 pm

So, this is something that I've been kicking around in my head for a couple days: what purpose, story-wise, does the prologue serve? The rising chandelier and restoration of the Opera is a wonderful theatrical coup--but does it affect the story in any way? Does seeing Raoul old and alone with his memories change how we see the narrative proper, or is it just a device to set up the show's first spectacle of the evening? I still haven't come up with an answer one way or another that satisfies me, and I wanted to see what other people thought on the subject.

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  operafantomet on Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:46 pm

I think it's the joy of using retrospective technique in the opening, to make the truth/story/whatever slowly appear to the viewer. And also to make the viewer curious on how the retrospective scene relates to the overall story, and how it comes together (read: makes sense) in the end. The items sold also appears to be the Phantom equivalents of "Chekhov's gun", I.E. if you present them early in the play, they're bound to bear some significance later in the play. Seen that way, both the Hannibal poster, the guns, the monkey musical box and the chandelier makes sense and is a foreshadowing of the later storyline.

The retrospective technique was invented refined by writer Henrik Ibsen, who used it in the plays "Ghosts" and "A Doll's House" with great success. The technique has later been much used in theatre as well as in movies.

I think it's also a historical nod to the first b/w movie, to open the musical in a sort of b/w setting, and make the next scene a major contrast, an explosion of colours (read: the coloured masquerade scene from the Chaney movie).

Speaking of which, "Love Never Dies" tried to copy the structure of a slow-motion, b/w opening scene contrasted by a colourful ensemble scene. But they had little of the foreshadowings of Phantom's opening scene, and as such the scene didn't serve any purpose. Had there been an actual fire in the LND musical, as I think was originally planned, it would have made more sense. But it only served to slow the musical down. Which is probably why it was removed.

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  ML6 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 2:02 pm

I always thought the prologue was just to intrigue people. It has a creepy atmosphere. It made you want to know more about Raoul and Mme Giry and their attraction to that ugly music box.

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  PMB1034 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:27 pm

operafantomet wrote:I think it's the joy of using retrospective technique in the opening, to make the truth/story/whatever slowly appear to the viewer. And also to make the viewer curious on how the retrospective scene relates to the overall story, and how it comes together (read: makes sense) in the end. The items sold also appears to be the Phantom equivalents of "Chekhov's gun", I.E. if you present them early in the play, they're bound to bear some significance later in the play. Seen that way, both the Hannibal poster, the guns, the monkey musical box and the chandelier makes sense and is a foreshadowing of the later storyline.

The retrospective technique was invented refined by writer Henrik Ibsen, who used it in the plays "Ghosts" and "A Doll's House" with great success. The technique has later been much used in theatre as well as in movies.

I think it's also a historical nod to the first b/w movie, to open the musical in a sort of b/w setting, and make the next scene a major contrast, an explosion of colours (read: the coloured masquerade scene from the Chaney movie).

Speaking of which, "Love Never Dies" tried to copy the structure of a slow-motion, b/w opening scene contrasted by a colourful ensemble scene. But they had little of the foreshadowings of Phantom's opening scene, and as such the scene didn't serve any purpose. Had there been an actual fire in the LND musical, as I think was originally planned, it would have made more sense. But it only served to slow the musical down. Which is probably why it was removed.

Fascinating. Thankyou.

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  Scorp on Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:43 pm

ML6 has pretty much already said it: atmosphere. I remember wondering the same thing about the prologue myself not so long ago, and an interview I found with Hal Prince suggests that Prince saw the main purpose of that scene as creating a creepy, threatening and mysterious atmosphere. Also agree with operafantomet about the Chekhov's gun aspect of it all. No doubt the setting up of the spectacle of the rising of the chandelier (which I believe was ALW's idea) is also part of the reason for its existence. In some ways I also see the scene as a homage to Leroux's novel, which itself opens with a prologue where the narrator is commenting on the events of the story 30 or so years later.

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  meglett on Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:21 pm

When we first rehearsed the Auction scene, Hal Prince told everyone in the scene that it was basically Raoul's death. The Auctioneer is suppose to be Death incarnate and all the opera people are suppose to be "memories" or ghost in Raoul's mind. That's why the scene is slow and drawn out compared to the timing of the other scenes. The managers, Mme. Giry, Mme. Firmin, Princess, LeFevre, Wardobe Mistress, a couple of the men of the opera and even a ballerina are all part of what makes up the "bidders" trying to buy there way to a better place perhaps? (Of course, his nurse isn't exactly dead, but someone has to wheel that old guy around)

Since hearing that and watching them set that scene, I've thought that the reason has been to showcase the effect that this story had on Raoul who is the only one left behind to tell the tale on top of setting the "creepy" tone of the mysterious masked man.

Personally, I believe that Raoul dies with chandelier rising/theater restoration and basically we're seeing the show through his memories and what others have told him. Again that's what I personally believe and others can disagree with me on that. Very Happy

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  operafantomet on Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:29 pm

meglett wrote:When we first rehearsed the Auction scene, Hal Prince told everyone in the scene that it was basically Raoul's death. The Auctioneer is suppose to be Death incarnate and all the opera people are suppose to be "memories" or ghost in Raoul's mind.
OooOooOooh, that IS interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  LadyCDaae on Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:01 pm

Now that IS interesting, Brianne! And it would explain why Giry and the managers show up, when logic indicates they should be very old if not dead by that point.

Part of me still thinks the show could conceivably be carried off without the prologue, but if you look at it in the context of setting the atmosphere and creating an aura of remembrance and regret it's by no means extraneous.

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  operafantomet on Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:14 pm

I would also like to add the thoughts of Mireille Ribière, who did the newest English translation of Leroux's novel.

Her opinion is that the opera house is one of the main characters, just as the Phantom, Christine and Raoul is. She meant this was a key to understand the novel, and also why abridged versions (which always cuts the parts about the opera house first) feels strangely unsatisfying. This wasn't her exact word, but I think it was what she intended to say at the presentation of the book in 2009.

You might say the prologue could be cut without affecting the story. So could Hannibal. And Magical Lasso. And most of Masquerade. And probably many other scenes (as Vegas has partly done). But by cutting that, you remove the "character" of the opera house, which is important in the novel. (Vegas has compensated by introducing the actual opera house facade before Masquerade, though).

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  MasqPhan on Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:23 pm

operafantomet wrote:
meglett wrote:When we first rehearsed the Auction scene, Hal Prince told everyone in the scene that it was basically Raoul's death. The Auctioneer is suppose to be Death incarnate and all the opera people are suppose to be "memories" or ghost in Raoul's mind.
OooOooOooh, that IS interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Agreed. VERY interesting. I really like this idea and it gives me a whole new outlook on that scene. If you even think of the auctioneer's makeup when you see it up close, it's rather skull like...well at least to me it is.

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  ladygodiva on Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:37 pm

meglett wrote:When we first rehearsed the Auction scene, Hal Prince told everyone in the scene that it was basically Raoul's death. The Auctioneer is suppose to be Death incarnate and all the opera people are suppose to be "memories" or ghost in Raoul's mind. That's why the scene is slow and drawn out compared to the timing of the other scenes. The managers, Mme. Giry, Mme. Firmin, Princess, LeFevre, Wardobe Mistress, a couple of the men of the opera and even a ballerina are all part of what makes up the "bidders" trying to buy there way to a better place perhaps? (Of course, his nurse isn't exactly dead, but someone has to wheel that old guy around)

Since hearing that and watching them set that scene, I've thought that the reason has been to showcase the effect that this story had on Raoul who is the only one left behind to tell the tale on top of setting the "creepy" tone of the mysterious masked man.

Personally, I believe that Raoul dies with chandelier rising/theater restoration and basically we're seeing the show through his memories and what others have told him. Again that's what I personally believe and others can disagree with me on that. Very Happy

Wow, I had heard some of it a long time I go, I could not find the analysis in an interview he did, that was incredible, amazing, Hal Prince is really amazing.

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  Phantomlove on Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:05 pm

Woaw, that certainly explains why the auctioneer looks so creepy. It's interesting but to me feels slightly weird as well. Brianne, did Hal say anything else about this? Where are we if we aren't at the auction, or are we at the auction but Raoul sees only ghosts and then dies during the auction?

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Re: The Prologue and its purpose (or lack thereof)

Post  Scorp on Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:15 pm

That's fascinating. Thanks for sharing, Brianne!

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