The varying timelines in ALW's "Phantom"

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The varying timelines in ALW's "Phantom"

Post  MarySkater on Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:17 pm

I posted this on a Phantom group on Facebook. I'll repeat it here in case anyone is interested.

There has been some discussion about timelines in ALW's Phantom. I don't think it's possible to make sense of the various dates given, but I've been collecting the references.

Let's start with "Phantom of the Opera," the libretto as published in George Perry's book "The Complete Phantom of the Opera" in 1986. The Prologue is said to be "the stage of the Paris Opera, 1905."  Raoul is described as "seventy now, but still bright of eye." Then Act 1 is said to be in 1881. (I believe the same dates were given in theatre programmes of the time, but I don't have one to check.) According to those dates, Raoul would have been 46 when he first re-encountered Christine.  And since she and Raoul were together as children, she couldn't have been many years younger.  So right from the start, nobody in authority seems to have been checking if the given dates made sense.

The Original Cast Recording (London) was first published on cassette and vinyl LP. I don't know when it came out on CD; I bought mine on CD after my cassette wore out. The insert with my CD still places the prologue as 1905, but now puts Act 1 in 1861. That works better in that it would make Raoul 26, and Christine maybe 20 or 22. Unfortunately for this idea, the Paris Opera House didn't open until 1875.  So now the story has to be set, not in the real Opera House, but a fictional building of the same name, which also has a lake in the cellar.  I also suspect that 1861 would make some of the costumes historically wrong, but that's a minor point.

By the time of London's 25th Anniversary, the show filmed at the Royal Albert Hall, the prologue was said to be 1911. Act 1 is simply described as "Late 19th Century." These dates have been repeated in subsequent theatre programmes.

Then we get the 2004 movie of the show, which places the prologue in 1919, and the main story in 1870. That works in so far as it makes the Raoul of the auction almost 50 years older than the main story, but again it's before the Opera House was actually opened. Also, we learn later in the film that Christine was born in 1854, so she was only 16 at the time of the main story. That may have been chosen with reference to Emmy Rossssum, who was around that age when the film was made, but I feel it's too young for the Christine of the story. According to her gravestone, that Christine died in 1917, therefore aged 62 or 63.

Then on to "Love Never Dies."  For the original London run, the theatre programme doesn't give dates. However, the libretto included with the Original Cast Recording places the main action as "circa 1907." Then the opening of "Til I Hear You Sing" gives us 10 years since the Phantom parted from Christine, which would move the main story of POTO to the mid-1890's. The DVD of the Australian production begins by saying that the Opera Populaire was destroyed by fire in 1895.  (Nobody can pretend any longer that the story is set in the real Paris Opera House because - look, folks! - it's still there  Smile .) So was the Phantom's "ten long years" really twelve? Or did the much-debated conception of Gustave happen around 1897, two years after the fire? I think we have to assume that Christine was in her thirties when she died in LND, and therefore was born around 1870.  This is an alternate universe to the 2004 movie where she was born in 1854 and lived into her sixties. And it also differs from the dates currently given for POTO on stage, where the action takes place in 1861 and she must have been born around 1840.

Does anyone have any other dates to throw into the mix? Do the touring productions of POTO or LND offer anything different?
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Re: The varying timelines in ALW's "Phantom"

Post  Blind Phan on Sat Dec 16, 2017 7:28 am

LOL I had no idea the timeline inconsistencies were that dyer even among POTO productions! Wow! I knew that my OLD OLC tape and LP set the prologue in 1905 and the main action in 1861. But I didn't realize the libretto published in Perry said 1881. Interesting! I'll have to go back and check that, as I always assumed it matched the OLC liner notes! Certainly the booklet and programs from the original Toronto production (as I remember them) put the prologue in 1911 and the main action in 1881. LOL I love, though, how the 25th anniversary's just gone with "some time in the late 19th century)! So nicely vague!

And yeah, 1861 for the main action of the story would make the costumes historically inaccurate. Oops, LOL I guess they figured the audience wouldn't notice such things!

As for the unfortunate timing around when the Paris Opera was actually built, I think the "out" there was that the original libretto never says Paris Opera or Palais Garnier. It just calls it the Opera Populaire. LOL So that way it doesn't have to strictly conform to the timelines of the actual opera house!

Btw. What's this Phantom group on Facebook? Cool!

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Re: The varying timelines in ALW's "Phantom"

Post  MarySkater on Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:13 pm

It may be that the "1881" in the Perry libretto was a simple typo, but it's in big bold print, so the proof-reader ought to have caught it. A recent theatre programme says the location of the prologue is "The stage of the Paris Opera House, 1911." That's pretty specific.

I know they don't say "Palais Garnier," but I'm not sure how often the building gets called that. When I was in Paris last year, I learned that the famous cutaway scale model of the Opera House is in the d'Orsay museum, so I went to see it. I asked at the information desk for the model of the Palais Garnier, and was met with blank looks. It may have been my accent - my French isn't very good.  But when I changed my question to "Opéra," they immediately understood and pointed me in the right direction.

This is the Phantom Facebook group that I meant:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/557561987630779/
I'm on there as Mary Houlden. It's been a bit quiet lately, but there are sometimes interesting posts. However it has the Facebook problem that discussions drop off the bottom of the page and get lost - I prefer forums, but nowadays people seem to prefer Facebook.
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