Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

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Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  MlleMusique on Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:34 am

Hello everyone!

Well, after a super long hiatus I'm back, with renewed energy and love for Phantom, and a question that's been bugging me for some time. I seem to recall some discussion on this topic elsewhere but numerous search attempts have yielded nothing.

I want to discuss the notion of the Phantom coaching Christine...more specifically, just whose dressing room is it where he appears in her mirror? As a member of the corps de ballet Christine would share a dressing room with the other dancers, and unlike the 2004 film I don't believe she 'borrows' Carlotta's individual dressing room for lessons.

I believe someone suggested once that she was sneaking into a vacant dressing room....but if her dressing table and the mannequin with the unused dress is any indication, Christine's made herself quite at home in there! Logically she's been taking lessons from the Phantom since day one (which, since the Garnier opened in 1875 I estimate is about a year). Furthermore Meg, Mme Giry and the managers know enough about it to not only know the dressing room's location but direct Raoul there after 'Hannibal'!

So how can Christine justify regularly using a private dressing room whilst she's merely a corps dancer? Why does no one in the company bat an eyelid about it? It seems to me her 'secret' singing lessons aren't so secret after all. Because if no one else knows that she's singing in there, what do they think she's doing??

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  LadyCDaae on Fri Jun 27, 2014 2:04 am

To paraphrase The Simpsons: "Well, ah, whenever you notice something like that, the Phantom did it."  Razz 

Seriously, I think my personal headcanon is that the dressing room wasn't in use and probably in an out-of-the-way place somewhere in the Opera (Christine says in Leroux that her room is "off by itself" or words to the effect), so that (and, obviously, the voyeuristic spy-mirror) made it a convenient place for the Phantom to give Christine her lessons. Once she hit it big, she "officially" took possession of the space as her dressing room.

Really, though, it's just a plot hole that cropped up when Christine was demoted from supporting cast member to ballet chorus.  Laughing 

~LCD

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  Raphael on Sat Jun 28, 2014 1:28 pm

Yup, it's one of those plot holes the ALW version glosses over after making Christine a member of the ballet corp in order to showcase Sarah Brightman's dance skills. Going strictly by the lyrics in the musical, Christine has been having her lessons with the Angel of Music here for some time ("Here in this room he calls me softly"), although it is not certain how long those lessons have been going on. Meg says that six months ago Christine sang like a rusty hinge (but this requires pulling Leroux's novel into the narrative). Susan Kay had Erik create a series of accidents to force her to be placed in that specific dressing room which had the secret passageway through the mirror so that he could give her lessons; but again, this relies on external source material. Had ALW left well enough alone and kept Christine a chorus member, all these questions would have resolved themselves.

Regardless of how she ended up there, the fact that Madame Giry and the managers know where this dressing room is can easily be explained away due to the fact that they are employees and this would be something that they would be aware of.

R.

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  MlleMusique on Sat Jun 28, 2014 10:00 pm

Raphael wrote:Had ALW left well enough alone and kept Christine a chorus member, all these questions would have resolved themselves.R.

Oh, but it's fun to have her be a dancer, if for no other reason then she gets Meg, an actual human being friend!  Wink 

Raphael wrote:Regardless of how she ended up there, the fact that Madame Giry and the managers know where this dressing room is can easily be explained away due to the fact that they are employees and this would be something that they would be aware of.R.

So do you think it's plausible that, given human curiosity, perhaps members of the company are actually aware that Christine is taking singing lessons in her dressing room and the surprise comes when they hear that her voice is very, very good? After all, Meg says Christine's been coached by "a great teacher" and, prior to 'Angel of Music' seems not to have made the connection that Christine's teacher and her Angel are one and the same until Christine explicitly says so. Perhaps whomever knew about them took Christine's "singing lessons" with a grain of salt, as an ambitious corps dancer's indulgence to do something different and didn't take the idea of her singing seriously until she opened her mouth.

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  Raphael on Sun Jun 29, 2014 2:17 am

MlleMusique wrote:Oh, but it's fun to have her be a dancer, if for no other reason then she gets Meg, an actual human being friend!  Wink 

Absolutely! I love the friendship between the two. I don;t think there's a precedent for it prior to the ALW musical.

So do you think it's plausible that, given human curiosity, perhaps members of the company are actually aware that Christine is taking singing lessons in her dressing room and the surprise comes when they hear that her voice is very, very good? After all, Meg says Christine's been coached by "a great teacher" and, prior to 'Angel of Music' seems not to have made the connection that Christine's teacher and her Angel are one and the same until Christine explicitly says so. Perhaps whomever knew about them took Christine's "singing lessons" with a grain of salt, as an ambitious corps dancer's indulgence to do something different and didn't take the idea of her singing seriously until she opened her mouth.

Well as you said, Meg knows Christine has been taking lessons, but not from who. Her mother, however, seems to know everything ("You did well. He will be pleased."). It's implied that the Girys are the people Christine is closest to in the entire opera company, so this seems reasonable. If we dip back into Leroux, Christine always took her lessons from the Angel very early in the morning before most arrived - but again, that's Leroux - but it's entirely plausible that others may have heard rumors about Christine taking lessons, especially if Christine let things slip by singing or humming under her breath during the day (the TV miniseries has a scene like this). We have no evidence of this in the show, so it's just speculation.

R.

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  MlleMusique on Sun Jun 29, 2014 3:25 am

Oh, I completely agree that the Girys are Christine's, well I've always imagined adopted mother and sister, as much as is practical. Given the nature of being a dancer in 19th century Paris and that many of the corps were foreign, the notion of Mme Giry playing mother to her dancers should be much more literal than most interpret.

I would like to point out that Leroux made an odd choice setting Christine's lessons early in the morning. It makes sense for reasons of privacy and solitude, but for the sake of her voice it'd have been much better to set them late at night after her voice could have been warmed up all day. Singing early in the morning, much less operatic material is not terribly beneficial!

Given my adoration of the building I should know this: did the Opera possess dormitories that were the literal residence of the corps and/or ensemble members? If so, it wouldn't have mattered when Christine took her lessons as less people in the mornings/evenings did not mean the Opera was empty!

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  Raphael on Sun Jun 29, 2014 9:24 pm

You probably know more about the Palais Garnier than I do, but I think I read somewhere that the ballet rats lived in dormitories. I don't see any reason why chorus members would have them, though. Plus I like the idea of Christine living in a little apartment with her benefactress.

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  MlleMusique on Sun Jun 29, 2014 10:56 pm

Alas, after much Googling (in English and French!) I have been unable to find any confirmation that there are dormitories in the real Palais Garnier. In fact I found two sources stating there are not, and this was something invented for, amongst other incarnations, the 2004 film. The Paris Opera Ballet School has a dormitory in their complex near André Malraux Park, which itself is close to the Palais Garnier by metro, but I don't know how much of a history that complex has. The ballet dancers of Leroux's era would have resided around Paris, in boarding houses or private residences as Christine did with Mme Valerius, something the 1989 film specified which was nice.

It is disappointing that the idea of dormitories within the Garnier are fictional, though of course if one can base a fictional lake and lair out of a real (small) reservoir, given the size of the building it is not unrealistic to invent the existence of a lofty dormitory room or two!  Wink 

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  MarySkater on Mon Jun 30, 2014 6:42 pm

I think LadyCDaae gives the answer with:

LadyCDaae wrote:
"Well, ah, whenever you notice something like that, the Phantom did it."  Razz 
...

Really, though, it's just a plot hole that cropped up when Christine was demoted from supporting cast member to ballet chorus.  Laughing 

Answering questions like this is an opportunity for fanfiction writers.  (And - please forgive the plug  Embarassed  - I've posted a one-page story on the theme in Fanfiction.net, "Unnatural Selection.") But, whether looking at the stage show or Leroux, I don't think Christine's remarkable improvement could have been kept secret unless Erik had soundproofed the room.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but surely an opera soloist has to have the power to project over the sound of the orchestra, and that's not something you can practise quietly!

On the subject of where Christine lived, stage Giry says (after Christine returns from her visit to the Phantom's lair) "I thought it best that she went home."  I would read that as meaning a "home" somewhere outside the Opera House.  So I think the apartment with Mme Valerius still fits that version of the story.

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  MlleMusique on Mon Jun 30, 2014 9:18 pm

MarySkater wrote:I don't think Christine's remarkable improvement could have been kept secret unless Erik had soundproofed the room.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but surely an opera soloist has to have the power to project over the sound of the orchestra, and that's not something you can practise quietly!

No offence to the lovely LadyCDaae, but that's not really an answer  Neutral  And, alas, as consistent as it is to most all other versions except the ALW musical to have Christine be a vocal ensemble member and not a dancer, as I said before I like the change in making her a ballerina because a) it gives a precedent for her friendship with Meg and b) frankly makes the reveal of her voice even more powerful since there was no precedent for her singing at all.

And yes, Mary, your observations about the voice carrying are correct. Having said that, do we not think it is within Erik's capabilities to somehow 'soundproof' the room? Given all the other tricks he pulls off... *enchantedpianosahem*

MarySkater wrote:On the subject of where Christine lived, stage Giry says (after Christine returns from her visit to the Phantom's lair) "I thought it best that she went home."  I would read that as meaning a "home" somewhere outside the Opera House.  So I think the apartment with Mme Valerius still fits that version of the story.

I admit I had overlooked Giry's line, which indeed suggests an echo of Leroux's placing Christine in a residence outside the Opera. Indeed, also as I've mentioned above the real Palais Garnier possesses no dormitories.....although this too is something I've always held in my head canon. If not in in-house dormitories per the 2004 film (yes, I admit that was one of the ideas I rather liked, having lofty ballet dorms), the other alternative is what the 1989 film came up with, which was to have Christine and several other company members, including Meg, reside in a boarding house for ladies. No offence to Mme Valerius, but I think it helps keep Christine and her distracted personality a little more enigmatic to not have her reside with a close (adult) confidante.

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  MarySkater on Tue Jul 01, 2014 6:24 pm

MlleMusique wrote:And yes, Mary, your observations about the voice carrying are correct. Having said that, do we not think it is within Erik's capabilities to somehow 'soundproof' the room? Given all the other tricks he pulls off... *enchantedpianosahem*

Yes, I'm sure he could.  It's a possibility, for people who are unconvinced by Leroux's theory that voice practice in the early morning wouldn't get noticed.  I think it would please Erik to have no one suspect Christine's singing ability until the moment came to reveal her voice in all its glory.  I'm sure he enjoys the dramatic.  (Although I'm not sure how to combine that "surprise" element with Giry and Meg's knowledge of Christine's "lessons.")

MlleMusique wrote:I think it helps keep Christine and her distracted personality a little more enigmatic to not have her reside with a close (adult) confidante.
Mme Valerius, as depicted by Leroux, contributed quite a lot to Christine's "distraction"  Smile  She certainly encouraged Christine in her "Angel of Music" belief.  But I agree with you that it would not have helped the stage show to include the character.  To cut the novel down to a 2-hour show required a lot of streamlining (e.g. losing the Persian and using Giry as a substitute).  Showing Christine as living chez Valerius would be an unnecessary side-issue, shifting focus away from the Opera House.

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  MlleMusique on Tue Jul 01, 2014 9:56 pm

MarySkater wrote:I'm sure he enjoys the dramatic.  (Although I'm not sure how to combine that "surprise" element with Giry and Meg's knowledge of Christine's "lessons.")

Well, one thing that most all versions keep consistent is Mme Giry's mysterious 'know-all' attitude about the Phantom, and given his egotism it's logical, is it not, that in return the Phantom would know all about Mme Giry, Meg and their relationship with Christine? (They are, after all, essentially her adopted family, and I think he'd be reassured that Christine had some human company for daily interactions. They pose no threat to him as far as the nature of their relationships with Christine versus what he desires to forge with her). In other words I'm not sure it'd bother him that Mme Giry and Meg are aware of Christine's lessons, and it's the greater 'uncultured' company and Parisian population he's wishing to surprise.

MarySkater wrote:Mme Valerius, as depicted by Leroux, contributed quite a lot to Christine's "distraction" ... Showing Christine as living chez Valerius would be an unnecessary side-issue, shifting focus away from the Opera House.

Ah yes, that's true. I don't know, I never much liked their relationship, for the primary reason I think that I felt it did pull me out of the mystery and fantasy of the Opera House as a self-contained 'world'.

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  Sarah Crawford on Tue Nov 04, 2014 7:38 pm

Fun discussion! Like others who have posted here, I think the issue of Christine’s dressing room is just a plot hole that crept up when ALW made Christine a dancer. My head cannon is pretty similar to Kay as far as how she ended up with the room, but yes, it’s all speculation. On the one hand, it kind of bothers me that ALW made Christine a dancer, since there isn’t a chorus of singing ballerinas in real opera. But then on the other hand I do love her friendship with Meg in the musical. I like MlleMusique’s idea that in the musical others knew of Christine’s lesson in the dressing room, assumed her teacher was human, and thought nothing of it until Hannibal. The thought never occurred to me before. That said, I tend to think that only the Girys knew about the lessons until that point. In the movie, others may have known because of the fun but fictional dormitories, but I think the sound proofing idea could have prevented this.

And how I have a question, hopefully not too OT. It was mentioned above and got me thinking. In the movie, is Christine really borrowing Carlotta’s dressing room? I’ve heard people say that, but I’ve always assumed that the two rooms are just decorated similarly.

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

Post  MlleMusique on Tue Dec 30, 2014 7:50 pm

Sarah Crawford (fabulous username, by the way! Very Happy ) I've always presumed she was borrowing Carlotta's room, simply for the fact that there's no way Christine, as a corps de ballet member, would have such a large and elaborately decorated dressing room otherwise. If you watch the moment where Buquet peeks through a hole in the wall to spy on the dancers; that's the kind of cramped, messy dressing room they have. And even if, for some fanciful reason, the ballet rats were all housed in the upscale dressing room, it's highly unlikely they'd have happily been kicked out to change elsewhere after the show so Christine could have the room to herself.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I can tell historically the 'prima donnas' in opera companies did have their own, private, luxurious dressing rooms whilst most of the rest of the cast shared. (A similar thing happens today although the dressing rooms are rarely as beautiful as they were in the past).

Of course having Christine borrowing Carlotta's room isn't terribly practical if she's counting on doing so between Carlotta's presences in order to have her lessons. Quite impractical of the Phantom to install the special mirror in that dressing room which was going to be used by Carlotta! Perhaps the movie's Opera Populaire isn't as large as the musical's. Wink

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Re: Christine's Dressing Room...what, how and why?

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