The operas of Phantom

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The operas of Phantom

Post  LadyCDaae on Mon Jun 25, 2012 1:11 pm

So yeah, this is the sort of thing that happens when it's five in the morning and I can't sleep due to a combination of post-Phantom buzz and the hotel pillow putting a crimp in my neck--I start thinking about the "operas" we see over the course of the musical. Each has two excerpts: a scene and an aria for Hannibal, a scene (with disrupted aria) and a ballet for Il Muto, and a sitzprobe and a scene with duet for DJT. And I started trying to work out the context of what we see and how it would fit into a larger work. Why does Elissa sing "Think of Me"? What (presumably very thin) pretext did they have for putting a pastoral dance into a story of pre-Revolution aristocracy? Where does the scene Piangi was very unsuccessfully rehearsing stand in relationship to PONR, anyway? I'm still mulling it over, but I wanted to see if anyone else had any thoughts/insights/wild conspiracy theories/opinions that I have too much time on my hands.

~LCD

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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  operafantomet on Mon Jun 25, 2012 5:15 pm

Hahaha, I've actually thought about this many a time. There's so much potential! I think it's interesting to see Hal Prince's comments about the mock operas, and combine this with what the libretto tells. This is by no means THE correct answer, I think it can be interpreted many ways, but this is how I see it:

HANNIBAL
"A full-stage set, magnificent drapes, followed by canvas-drops rise from the floor to create Hannibal, a lightly satirical version of the Paris Opéra production of Aida" (from 1881, my comment). (Hal Prince October 2009)

Aida tells the story of the Ethiopian princess Aida who's brought into slavery in Egypt. A hero warrior, royal women in love, a big battle, a bunch of slaves and an African setting seems to be what Hannibal drew from Aida.

But the Phantom team used the story of the Carthaginian commander Hannibal as a main frame. It was he who in the second Punic war opposed mighty Rome and marched from Northern Africa through France over the alps and into The Roman Empire, where he won important battles. He was defeated first when he had to return home to fight against Romans in his home country. Despite several peace conferences, it ended in a battle because Hannibal and his army had returned and the Carthaginians felt invincible.

The Phantom libretto tells that "We have reached the great choral scene in which Hannibal and his army return to save Carthage from the Roman invasion under Scipio". So it's a bit out in the opera. If we're to assume the opera Hannibal has the usual four or five acts, I would probably put this in early fourth act. Elissa is described as Queen of Carthage and Hannibal's mistress, while Meg and Christine are described as the leading slave girls. Elissa has just received the severed head, a war trophy, and we have the big procession welcoming the army and their leader.

Now here's the piece of nugget - the aria "Think of Me" is probably before the triumphant return of Hannibal. This "rather fine aria in Act Three of Hannibal" is Elissa pining for her brave soldier, involved in wars far away. This might be a parallelle to Aida's aria "Ritorna vincitor". And while we're at it, Hannibal's triumphant return is probably a nod to "Gloria all'Egitto, ad Iside" from Aida. But I'm digressing...

I assume the basic plot of the opera Hannibal would be that Hannibal rise to fame, has an amorous relationship with Elissa, makes his famous journey over the Alps, leaving his love to pine for him (Think of Me), returns home to defeat the Romans in his home land (Tomorrow we shall break the chains of Rome... Tonight rejoice, your army has come home), a big battle, Hannibal loosing the big battle (but surviving), and I would think some unhappy love at the end with Hannibal in exile, and eventually a noble death (wise words followed by heroic suicide). Maybe Elissa singing dramatically on his grave. Or maybe she died with him (in sync with Aida).

Again, this is my interpretation of it, based on the actual story of Hannibal combined with the inspirational source Aida. But we might also assume the librettist took great liberties in retelling Hannibal's story. Smile

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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  operafantomet on Mon Jun 25, 2012 6:04 pm

IL MUTO
"The second, near the end of the first act, is comic - faux Mozart, in the style of The Marriage of Figaro. Called Il Muto in our production, it is complete with pretty pink scenery and the cast in heavy white and black makeup, wearing elaborate wigs and beautiful costumes."
(Hal Prince, October 2009)

So Il Muto is a pastiche of the comical opera "Marriage of Figaro" by Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte. A count and countess, infidelity, a male page dressed up as a girl... Oh yeah, familiar elements. Marriage of Figaro is a sequel (sic!!!) to Mozart's Barber of Seville, and the plot is rather intricate, with people dressing up and down and everybody fooling everybody... Or so it feels. I never got a hang of all the details of the plot.

The Phantom libretto tells that the music we hear before the curtains opens in Il Muto is meant to be the Ouverture, and the next scene the opening or thereabout. We're explained the roles includes a Countess, a page boy called Serafimo, disguised as her made, "two epicene men" in the shape of a hairdresser and a jeweller, the jewellers maid, and an elder lady which is the Countess' confidante. Eventually we also see the Countess' husband, Don Attilio. He suspects his young bride is untrue (pretty much like the Count in "Marriage of Figaro"). Which she is. Or means to be. The following plot is probably everybody tricking everybody.

The ballet is in act three. In the article by ALW printed in most souveir brochures he writes that "Key also to the Paris formula was the ballet. This was usually at the start of Act III. The gentlemen could dine before arriving at the theatre in time to see their various young ladies in the corps de ballet". So also in Il Muto.

The purpose of the dance? Partly a nod to how fairly pointless dances were added to the beginning of act three, to showcase dancing beauties to their patrons. But possibly also a nod to ALW's love for the movie "Amadeus". A rehearsal scene for "The Marriage of Figaro" can be seen in the movie. Because the emperor had forbidden dancing with music in operas alltogether, the movie shows Mozart staging a dancing scene in silence, to all we hear are their clampring feet. Which was considered so silly the emperor ordered them to dance to music. This dance scene was - if my memory serves me right - in act three, and shows people elegantly dancing at a wedding. This is the movie's take on it, but seeing how ALW is a big fan of the movie, I would not be surprised if they went by that.

I'm sure there are better explanations to this, though... Laughing For example WHY they're country nymphs (The Dance of the Country Nymphs). Maybe the Count was bored and looked out of the window, only to see them, haha.


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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  LadyCDaae on Mon Jun 25, 2012 6:45 pm

Hannibal is, I think, the easiest of the three to create context for, as the plot would naturally be extrapolated from the history and mythology of Carthage. Hannibal's rise, defeat, exile and suicide all have the makings of grand opera about them--presumably his brief political career would be glossed over. However, there seems to be some playing fast and loose with the character of Elissa/Dido, who is traditionally the founder of Carthage and would have lived several hundred years before Hannibal (unless the name is an honorary title bestowed upon the current queen). According to Justin, Elissa's hand was demanded by a neighboring king who threatened her kingdom with war if she refused him (a choice that echoes the one Christine is presented with in the show's climax). Rather than be forced into marriage, she climbs on top of a funeral pyre and slays herself with a sword. Presumably the operatic Elissa would end herself in a similar fashion.

Regarding the choral scene: in the Vegas re-cut Reyer calls for Act Two (or "from the beginning of Act Two," can't remember which) after the chorus ends. Since this is apparently a dress rehearsal, that would seem to indicate that a) the scene is at the end of Act One and he wants to move on to the next act or b) the scene is in Act Two and he wants them to go back and do it again because they made a hash of it the first time. It doesn't seem likely that the opera would bring out its big spectacular choral scene right away, so that leaves Act Two. Based on that, I would suggest a four-act structure: Act One beginning with Hannibal on the road home after a successful campaign (detailing the threat of the Roman invasion and his eagerness to return to Elissa) and possibly establishing the antagonists (maybe traitors who have sided with Rome). Act Two would be the triumphal entry into Carthage, Hannibal and Elissa's reunion/big love duet, and possibly more political intrigues. Act Three would have Elissa reminiscing about Hannibal ("Think of Me") and hearing the news of Hannibal's defeat at Zarna and realizing Carthage must surrender to Rome. (Possibly there would be another chorus number in there somewhere--priests/priestesses in the temple, perhaps?) And of course, Act Four would see Hannibal in exile and betrayed, and the protagonists going off to their suitably operatic demises.

I like your idea too, though, Anea. It's fun to speculate about these things sometimes!

~LCD


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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  operafantomet on Mon Jun 25, 2012 6:52 pm

operafantomet wrote:The purpose of the dance? Partly a nod to how fairly pointless dances were added to the beginning of act three, to showcase dancing beauties to their patrons. But possibly also a nod to ALW's love for the movie "Amadeus". A rehearsal scene for "The Marriage of Figaro" can be seen in the movie. Because the emperor had forbidden dancing with music in operas alltogether, the movie shows Mozart staging a dancing scene in silence, to all we hear are their clampring feet. Which was considered so silly the emperor ordered them to dance to music. This dance scene was - if my memory serves me right - in act three, and shows people elegantly dancing at a wedding. This is the movie's take on it, but seeing how ALW is a big fan of the movie, I would not be surprised if they went by that.
Ca. 3:30 here, for anyone wanting to enjoy dancing without music, from Amadeus...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tKtvTeIndk

LadyCDaae, your plot makes a lot of sense as well! I want to see a full version of Hannibal now!

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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  operafantomet on Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:06 pm

DON JUAN
"The third of the operas, in Act Two, is a new version of Don Juan - created by Andrew and the librettists as a twelve-tone opera, indicating that the Phantom's composing is decades ahead of Schönberg and Stockhausen."
(Hal Prince, October 2009)

It is of course a variation of Mozart's "Don Giovanni". But it's also the only opera they've kept from Leroux - Erik's opera with music that burns, with so much passion and feelings and unusual sounds it could make a fine lady faint.

Erik himself describes it as "It has not been composed to a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, nor inspired by wine, wanton love and profligacy doomed to incur the wrath of God. If you like I can play you Mozart's version, so that you may shed your beautiful tears and indulge in pious thoughts. You see, Christine, my own Don Juan is not carried off to Hell by demons, and yet he burns... (...) There is music that is so formidable that it consumes whoever approaches it. Fortunately you have not yet encountered such music. if you had, you would have lost your fresh complexion (...) Let's sing "opera music", Christine Daaé, he said as if he meant it as an insult"

Don Giovanni by Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte tells the story of the nobleman Giovanni and his manservant Leporello. Giovanni has, according to his servant, slept with 2065 women, and even killed the father of one. He sees the lovely Zerlina at her wedding, and offers the bridal couple a wedding reception in his castle. At this reception he does everything to be alone with Zerlina and to seduce her, but he don't succeed because of his earlier victim Elvira. Instead he dress his servant up as himself and sends him out to make peace with Elvira. He succeeds, but in the mean time Giovanni, dressed as his servant, sneaks in to seduce the woman's maid and causes more trouble. He flees, and has an encounter with a statue of a soldier, which turns out to be the ghost of the father he killed. This ghost ends up dragging Giovanni down to hell.

Phantom's Don Juan is probably close enough to Mozart's opera, though if they went by Leroux he is not dragged down to hell by the statue. Instead his hell is the eternal burning flame within. It also seems the roles of Zerlina and Elvira has been combined into one; we partly see the peasant wedding Don Giovanni invited into his castle to seduce the bride, and we partly see Don Giovanni and his manservant change clothes in order to seduce Elvira and her maid. In the costume design, Christine's role is actually referred to as Zerlina, but in the libretto she is Aminta.

The libretto Phantom tells: "The set of the final scene od Don Juan Triumphant. A huge hall with an arch. Behind the arch, which has curtains, is a bed. A fine table, laid for two. Passarino, Don Juan's servant, is directing the staff as they make the room ready. They are a crowd of sixteenth century ruffians and hoydens, proud of their master's reputation as a libertine."

As for what the ensemble sings in the Don Juan Rehearsal scene, it almost sounds like the moral ending of Mozart's Don Giovanni. But then, when the piano plays by itself, they go back to Don Juan being triumphant. So I don't know what to make of it.

Anyhow, it seems the Phantom team was further inspired by Amadeus for Don Juan. The red table with food, the Renaissance-esque costumes and the general setting reminds a lot. And the entrance of the nightmare statue is not too unlike Red Death. Not so much in costume as in way of entrance and grandeur, and in walking down the stairs:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxcjxN0rPzs

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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  LadyCDaae on Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:25 pm

So Il Muto is a pastiche of the comical opera "Marriage of Figaro" by Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte. A count and countess, infidelity, a male page dressed up as a girl... Oh yeah, familiar elements. Marriage of Figaro is a sequel (sic!!!) to Mozart's Barber of Seville, and the plot is rather intricate, with people dressing up and down and everybody fooling everybody... Or so it feels. I never got a hang of all the details of the plot.

Firmin and Andre's lines ("Nothing like the old operas!" etc.) further indicate that this opera is, like Figaro, the sort of familiar standby that opera companies trot out every so often and which are usually popular with audiences.

The scene we see of Il Muto indicates a lot of farce, ridiculous contrivances, and misunderstandings. The opera's title ("The Mute") indicates that Serafimo not only does not speak but is incapable of doing so (or at the very least is pretending that he cannot for the sake of some no doubt convoluted reason). Since he can not/does not speak for himself, this opens the door for the other characters to provide their own (mis)interpretations of his behavior, adding to the silliness and exposing their own follies. I would imagine that, as is often the case in this kind of Beaumarchais/Moliere-style comedy, there are also "servant" characters getting in on the act and generally behaving with a lot more sense and sympathy than their supposed betters--possibly this is where the Confidante and Fops come in. (I used to think Piangi would be playing the manservant/Figaro-type character and come in later, but since he's in street clothes when he comes to collect Carlotta after the toad incident I assume he simply does not have a role in this particular production.)

The purpose of the dance? Partly a nod to how fairly pointless dances were added to the beginning of act three, to showcase dancing beauties to their patrons.

As I said, any pretext for the existence of the ballet is probably a thin one, as it is most likely a divertissment, a dance interlude that has little to nothing to do with the actual plot. Perhaps the main characters have retired to a country house (the better to get on with the various machinations) and/or have retained the local peasants for a bit of entertainment. (I have NO idea what would be the excuse for the Greco-Roman thing going on in the UK tour--perhaps some sort of private theatrical the aristocrats are doing to amuse themselves?)

~LCD


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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  LadyCDaae on Mon Jun 25, 2012 9:38 pm

Phantom's Don Juan is probably close enough to Mozart's opera, though if they went by Leroux he is not dragged down to hell by the statue. Instead his hell is the eternal burning flame within. It also seems the roles of Zerlina and Elvira has been combined into one; we partly see the peasant wedding Don Giovanni invited into his castle to seduce the bride, and we partly see Don Giovanni and his manservant change clothes in order to seduce Elvira and her maid. In the costume design, Christine's role is actually referred to as Zerlina, but in the libretto she is Aminta.

I get a strong Dangerous Liaisons vibe off of Don Juan and Aminta--the notorious rake seducing the pure woman, at first simply to prove that he can and later because he truly desires her. (On the other hand, we see Don Juan dallying with a gypsy girl right before moving on to his conquest, so that may not be the case. Or maybe old habits die hard--especially when one does not want to admit it--and besides, dude's gotta do something about the blue balls Aminta's giving him.) One of the things I had trouble sorting out is who exactly Aminta is supposed to be. Her dress and the libretto seem to indicate that she is of the peasant class, yet Passarino also refers to her as Don Juan's "young guest" and lower classes are not often invited to traipse around in the manors of the aristocracy. The idea of borrowing a page from Mozart, with the bridal party invited to celebrate at the castle, would certainly clear away this apparent disparity.

As for what the ensemble sings in the Don Juan Rehearsal scene, it almost sounds like the moral ending of Mozart's Don Giovanni. But then, when the piano plays by itself, they go back to Don Juan being triumphant. So I don't know what to make of it.

I think the beginning of the scene and the part that's sung with the piano are not contiguous. (Actually I'm not quite sure what's going on with the piano thing--the Phantom's influence? A manifestation of Christine's fears/inner turmoil?) The first part of the sitzprobe appears to be a confrontation scene, with Aminta scorning Don Juan and Don Juan threatening her with...something (that's one thing that does bug me: what's the rest of Piangi's line? The lyric structure indicates the end is something that rhymes with "battlefield" but I have no idea what that might be or how you get there from tangling with Don Juan). Naturally, if PonR is the final scene in the opera (as it would have to be, you know an arrogant genius like Erik isn't going to interrupt his own magnum opus until near the end) this scene would have to occur somewhere earlier in the work.

So, again assuming a four-act structure, here's a rough guess on how the whole thing plays out:
Act 1: Don Juan sees/hears about Aminta, a soon-to-be wed young girl renowned for her purity. He vows to make a conquest of her and offers his estate for the use of the wedding party.
Act 2: Don Juan attempts to seduce Aminta, but she finds out who he is and, repulsed by his reputation, rejects him. Humiliated, Don Juan warns her that she will ultimately submit to him (confrontation/sitzprobe scene).
Act 3: Second seduction attempt: Don Juan disguises himself as Passarino and makes more headway in leading Aminta into temptation (presumably prompting the reference to "the thrill on your tongue of stolen sweets"). He also discovers he has deeper feelings for her. Passarino enters and nearly blows his cover, but since for some reason he's wearing Don Juan's cloak he's able to pass for his master. (Don't ask me how they actually manage to pull this off, it's an opera and those things happen.)
Act 4: PONR, Don Juan finally "triumphs" in getting Aminta to capitulate to him.

This would loosely coincide with the arc of the Phantom/Christine relationship up to this point and, obviously, where the Phantom intends it to end--and you know that's what would be at the back of his mind when he was writing it.

~LCD


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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  NightRachel on Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:26 am

Oh wow! This is such great stuff! Very Happy

Thank you, LadyCDaae and operafantomet, for posting all your thoughts/theories/ideas about the Phantom operas...it's all so interesting! I myself admit I've never really given much thought to the mock operas in POTO, but after reading all the above posts, I'm thinking I should have. Smile

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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  Raphael on Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:12 am

I believe the character of Aminta originates in Tirso de Molina's play, "El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra" - one of the earliest dramatizations of the Don Juan legend. Passarino appears in "Il Convitato di pietra" by Giacinto Andrea Cicognini.

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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  LadyCDaae on Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:26 pm

Raphael wrote:I believe the character of Aminta originates in Tirso de Molina's play, "El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra" - one of the earliest dramatizations of the Don Juan legend. .

Hmmmm....*Google-fu* And apparently in that play she serves the same basic function as Zerlina in Mozart--the bride seduced on/around her wedding. So we're back to that. Makes sense Erik would cast Christine as the girl Don Juan lures away from the man she's promised herself to...

~LCD

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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  Raphael on Thu Jun 28, 2012 3:21 am

Yup, same character, different name.

Also, I've always thought the sitzprobe scene (with both Christine and Piangi present and talking about Don Juan in the third person) reminded me of a bit of The Ballad of Sweeney Todd.

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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  hollybaba on Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:00 pm

operafantomet wrote:IL MUTO
"The second, near the end of the first act, is comic - faux Mozart, in the style of The Marriage of Figaro. Called Il Muto in our production, it is complete with pretty pink scenery and the cast in heavy white and black makeup, wearing elaborate wigs and beautiful costumes."
(Hal Prince, October 2009)



where are these Hal Prince quotes sourced from?
Also, the Barber of Seville was composed by Rossini, not Mozart. Smile

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Re: The operas of Phantom

Post  operafantomet on Wed Jul 11, 2012 6:41 am

hollybaba wrote:
operafantomet wrote:IL MUTO
"The second, near the end of the first act, is comic - faux Mozart, in the style of The Marriage of Figaro. Called Il Muto in our production, it is complete with pretty pink scenery and the cast in heavy white and black makeup, wearing elaborate wigs and beautiful costumes."
(Hal Prince, October 2009)



where are these Hal Prince quotes sourced from?
Also, the Barber of Seville was composed by Rossini, not Mozart. Smile
Ahem,whoops....

The Hal Prince quotes are from The Scenographer's October 2009 issue. Very worth getting!

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Re: The operas of Phantom

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