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A Few Notes About Christine Daae…

It’s finally here!  The post that I promised months ago and kept forgetting about or pushing to the back burner meticulously wrote and rewrote until it is the epitome of literary analysis!  Or theatre analysis.  So without further ado, here’s Part 1 of this dissertation!  (Similar posts about Raoul are here and here.)

I thought Christine was a flat character when I first watched the 25th Anniversary concert.  She seemed far less interesting than the Phantom or Raoul.  One is a man outcast from society through no fault of his own, yet who chose to terrorize the Opera House.  His loneliness and attraction to Christine makes him a conflicted and multi-leveled character.  And sympathetic, if you can get past the whole habitual-choking-people-who-cross-him.  The other is the hero of the story, a man with some faults (listening problem for one), yet who was willing to devote the rest of his life to caring for his  fiancée and loving her, and willing to risk his life for her.  Then there’s Christine…obsessed with a voice whom she believes is the ghost of her father…then she learns he’s actually a man…then spends half the musical freaked out yet fascinated by him, but then in Final Lair, she kisses him.

Then I took a second look at her character.  And I found that there was a lot more to Christine’s personality than meets the eye.

For starters, she is more dynamic than people give her credit for, and she grows and changes during the story.  Her actions are subtle, but not passive.  She makes—and acts on—crucial decisions in at least four cases: she chooses to trust Raoul rather than the Phantom; she lets go of the memories holding her back; she sings in Don Juan to help capture the Phantom; and she chooses to remain with the Phantom, to give him the compassion he needed and to free Raoul.  Nobody forced her to do any of that.  And she makes other, smaller choices throughout the musical that, while not obvious, nonetheless influence the story.

That said, a lot of her motives are ambiguous, left up to actress interpretation.  I think this was done on purpose so that each production could choose whether to show Christine in love with the Phantom or in love with Raoul.  But as I pointed out in my posts about Raoul, you must look at her actions and the character she displays through the whole story.  Her actions point toward her motives.

We hear of Christine before we see her; and what we hear is that she often spoke of the music box that Raoul buys at the opera auction.  And spoke of it in detail, enough detail for Raoul to verify the artifact at the auction.  Why Christine referred to this music box, a relic of days that were full of betrayal and terror, is also a mystery “never fully explained”.  Whether she spoke of those days with longing, fear, or just recurring memory is not specified.  But the fact that Raoul speaks of Christine even though she is no longer there indicates the influence she had on him.  And the narrative of her often speaking of the music box shows the influence the events of the whole musical had upon her.

Since Andrew Lloyd Webber habitually rewrites the lyrics of the show, some productions give details of Christine’s character that are missing from others.  In one version of the libretto, the audience first meets Christine dancing ballet—and dancing out of step, and Madame Giry tells the managers that she often has her head in the clouds.  This line is missing from the film and from the 25th Anniversary Concert at Royal Albert Hall.  In another version of the libretto and also in the film, Madame Giry informs the managers of Christine’s relationship to the Swedish violinist.  In the 25th Anniversary concert, Christine does this herself.

So Christine’s first actions and lines change depending on the whims of ALW which version of the libretto is used.  But she is certainly a member of the ballet corps, and the daughter of a Swedish violinist.  And she may also have the singing ability to take over the lead female role in Hannibal.  But when Andre asks who her vocal teacher is, Christine hesitates to share her secret with the whole Hannibal cast and says only that she doesn’t know who her tutor is.  It’s possible she knew the managers would not believe her if she said “he’s the Angel of Music,” and that she could be fired on the suspicion of being delusional or insane–but more likely, she saw no reason to trust the entire opera company with this knowledge.

While initially nervous as she begins the number “Think of Me,” Christine quickly gains confidence and shows that she can indeed handle the female lead role.  The managers immediately cast her Elissa, and this event subtly reveals a good deal about Christine’s character.  Firstly, she never objects to the star role.  She had a long and pleasant history with music; music strongly reminds her of her father (who played the violin and told her stories about the Angel of Music).  And later—something I never see mentioned—she says to the Phantom, “Grant to me your glory!” indication that she wanted further instruction of her voice, wanting more of what he had to teach her.

Secondly,  think what it must have taken to prepare for the female lead role in a 3-act opera.  Christine wasn’t even an understudy.  In a matter of minutes, she went from member of the ballet corps to the lead role, and she had to rehearse and remember new music, character, blocking, and vocals.  Not only did she prepare in time, she performed so well that she became a hit.  This reveals, not only the skill and beauty of her voice, but also her concentration, diligence, and acting capability.  Everyone hails the Phantom as the ultimate musical genius—and he is—but they overlook the implied extent of Christine’s skill.

After the opera, Christine tells Meg more about her mysterious tutor.  And her explanation makes her sound, quite frankly, air-headed.  But think about the events that led up to her belief in the Angel of Music.

In the first place, her father had promised to send this Angel.  Christine was very close to her father; she later refers to him as “my one companion,” and she implicitly trusted his word.  But there’s another, more believable, aspect to the situation.  Her father’s death left her alone, grieving, and emotionally vulnerable.  It also left her unprotected.  In 19th century theatre, male patrons of the opera often made romantic—or sexual—overtures to the ballet and chorus girls.  And while Christine and Meg are friends, there is no indication in the stage show that anyone besides the Phantom has stepped into the role of “guide and guardian.”  Thus, after her father’s death, Christine would be alone in the world, afraid for her safety, maybe afraid for her future (what social prospects did she have?) and grieving terribly.   And it must have been some comfort to think that the Angel was a messenger from her beloved father, and she seems to expect him to watch over her, not only to gift her with vocal instruction.  Thus, with grief and loneliness in her heart, with confidence in her father’s word, and with no other form of protection, it’s not much of a stretch that she decided the Phantom’s voice was indeed the Angel her father had promised.

However—despite her trust in her Angel, and despite her submission to his will—she fears him.  She’s not afraid of seeing him face-to-face; she actually wants him to reveal himself.  What she fears is the constant watchfulness.  Phans view this as mysterious and romantic, but Christine points out twice that her Angel is always with her, and the second time, specifies that “It frightens me.”  Though she does not want to be alone, this constant watchfulness is more than she bargained for.  Later, in the title song, the Phantom points out that “in all your fantasies, you always knew that man and mystery [were both in you].”  Thus, Christine may know (deep down) that the man’s voice is not really an Angel; and the alternative explanation makes her very uncomfortable.

She does not acknowledge this, however; perhaps fearing what would happen if she confronted the voice with her suspicions, or fearing to lose that one last link to her father.  Or simply maintaining trust in  her father’s word.  She does seem to recognize, however, how odd her belief sounds, and she doesn’t go around telling just anybody about it.  She tells only those she considers friends–first Meg, and later, Raoul.

Ardent admirers of Raoul (myself included) find it so sweet and romantic that he remembered the little girl he used to play with.  But Christine remembered him too.  When he mentioned her red scarf, she cries, “Oh, Raoul, so it is you!”  She suspected who he was when she read his note, and she rejoices to learn that her conclusion was correct.  She is also pleased that he remembered her, remembered the stories they used to play, and she joins him fondly in remembering their childhood.  Apparently, Raoul is also a reminder of her father, as she recalls her father playing the violin among the memories of her childhood escapades.

The very next thing she tells Raoul is that her father is dead—and that she has been visited by the Angel of Music.  She seems eager to share this information with him–notice that with Meg, Christine answered her friend’s inquiries; but here, she volunteers the information herself.  And she expects Raoul will believe in the Angel too, and insists that she can’t go to supper with him because “The Angel of Music is very strict.”

Interesting that she doesn’t refuse with a personal preference.  She doesn’t say “No, I don’t want to,” or “I have other plans,” or even, “I’m tired,” which would be perfectly natural after performing the star role in an opera.  She has no problem with going to supper with her old friend.  Christine’s sole objection is that her Angel is very strict.

But “strict” in what way?  The Phantom is not so unreasonable as to forbid her from getting supper.  He also never objected to Meg’s presence in the dressing room, not even to Christine explaining that he was her Angel of Music.  And Christine did not mention her Angel’s strictness to Meg.  It is only when a man offers to take her to supper that she says her Angel is very strict.  That implication?  The Phantom does not want Christine to associate with other men.

After Raoul leaves, Christine says aloud that “Things have changed, Raoul.”  But he is out of earshot by then, and the remark might have gotten his attention had he heard it.  It’s almost as though Christine is reminding herself that things have changed, that she can’t resume her acquaintance with Raoul because her angel would object.  And object he does.

Actually, the Phantom lashes out at Raoul, not at Christine for receiving him.  Nonetheless, Christine fears that even that little visit might be enough to make her Angel leave her.  “Stay by my side,” she begs after telling him that she is listening and attentive to his words.  Yet it is a fragile dependence; she apologizes for her “weak soul,” apparently terrified of driving him away if she is inattentive to his presence or if she does anything he might disapprove of.

On the other hand, she still believes he is a guardian, tutor, and protector sent by her father, and therefore, she trusts him enough to follow him into the tunnel behind the mirror.  She seems incredibly naïve–but they key here is that she trusts him.  After all, she believes he is an Angel, a messenger from her father, and her “guide and guardian” moreover.  She doesn’t go around believing or confiding in just anyone.  In fact, it’s the opposite, and she withholds personal information from people in general.  And once she realizes who her Angel really is, her confidence in him vanishes.

Mere minutes into the underground journey, Christine reveals that this man’s voice was with her in her dreams, calling to her.  (Whether his voice simply carried over into her subconscious—or whether the Phantom actually showed up and sang to her as she slept—is unspecified.)  Either way, Christine realizes that the voice in her head and the figure leading her down the tunnels were one and the same—and that this man is the Phantom of the Opera, not any Angel.

She also quickly figures out that the Phantom used her as a “mask” in the sense of showing his musical ability through her singing talent: “I am the mask you wear…” “It’s me they hear.”  And she mentioned that “Those who have seen your face draw back in fear,” but expresses no fear herself, merely points out what others do.  I’ve heard that many stage shows play this sequence as Christine being hypnotized, so one could argue that she has these revelations in a sort of trance.  But the next morning, some memories stuck in her mind: the journey across the lake, the Phantom’s music and voice, the sadness in his eyes.  She seemed to be under his influence to a degree, but she also retained enough of her own mind to piece together what was going on.

Most notably, she realizes–or rather, acknowledges–the reality of the situation.  The Phantom points out that “In all your fantasies, you always knew that man and mystery,” and Christine finishes, “…were both in you.”  She finally admits the truth she’d suspected: that the voice was no Angel but simply a man with tricks and mystery at his disposal.  And after the title song, she never again pretends the Phantom is something he’s not.  Nor does she call him “Angel” again until late in Act II.

Once in the lair, the Phantom sings a line that reveals as much about Christine as himself: “From the moment I first heard you sing, I have needed you with me to serve me, to sing for my music…”  Ignoring for now the possessive nature of this remark, it reveals that even before the Phantom’s training, Christine had a beautiful voice and musical talent entirely her own.  This potential is what got his attention in the first place, and shows Christine to be a realistic young lady rather than a perfect Mary Sue: she had talent, but it was talent that could be improved.  Not to mention the fact that her father was a violinist; Christine had been surrounded by music long before the Phantom came into her life.  Her gift and abilities do not derive entirely from him; he enhanced them, sure, but fans of the musical should not give the Phantom full credit for Christine’s talent.

Christine has no lines during “Music of the Night,” and the interpretation of this number depends on the actress and stage show.  She is hypnotized or entranced somehow, but she nonetheless registered and remember a few things.  As she tells Raoul later, she felt elation at the Phantom’s voice, at the freedom and expression and exhilaration that his music gave.  She “heard as [she’d] never heard before” while listening to the Phantom’s music, but she did not accept the his lure to the darkness.  She later speaks of the darkness with horror, and says, she wants “a world with no more night.”

When she wakes after her swoon, the first thing she remembers is the journey down to the lair—and that a man in a mask brought here.  Fully understanding that this person is no angel and no phantom either, her next priority is finding out who he is.  It does not seem to occur to her that the mask was there for a reason; on the other hand, since the guy lived in an elaborate lair underneath an opera house, she may have assumed it was theatricality.  But this, of course, is a wrong assumption.

After pulling off his mask, she is horrified by the deformity, and possibly by this further revelation about who her guardian is.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Christine connected the dots here or soon after and realized that the deformity is why he lives beneath the Opera House.  After the title song, she actually understands the realities of the situation pretty quickly.  At the moment, her reality is this: her guardian is not at all who she thought he was–and though he reacts violently to her pulling off his mask, he abruptly turns desperate, and expresses longing for human sympathy.  Christine registers the conflict in his soul, and hands him back his mask.

Upon returning to the opera house, Christine apparently told the Girys she wanted to see no one, and then secluded herself.  She may not have known whom to trust anymore.  Everybody accuses Christine of “betraying” the Phantom, but if you think about it, she was betrayed by him first.  Her last, precious link to her father was gone, and in fact never existed in the first place.  The guardian she trusted as her protector and as the messenger from her father turned out to be someone entirely different.  She is right back where she was when her father died: alone, frightened, and unprotected, and hurting from shattered trust.  Just imagine what she just have felt.

If Christine had known that the managers were disobeying the Phantom’s orders with their casting choice, she probably would have refused to play Serefimo. The memory of the Phantom’s possessiveness and strictness–and his anger when disobeyed or provoked–must have been fresh in her mind.  Thus, when the Phantom interrupts Ill Muto and demands explanation for the managers’ actions, Christine is terrified.  Not only is this the first time he has revealed his voice to everyone, she can only imagine what he will do now that the company has disobeyed his instructions.  Then, when he taunts Carlotta and ruins her voice, Christine realizes his vengeful power.  And when Buquet is murdered, she knows it was the Phantom’s doing. These revelations are more horrible than losing whom she thought was the angel from her father.  When Buquet falls dead to the stage, Christine cries out to Raoul for help—the only man she might be able to trust—and he instantly comes.

Fleeing to the roof (as far from the lair as possible), Christine’s fear initially seems histrionic.  But think about the situation: after accusing the managers of disobeying his instructions, whom does the Phantom kill?  Buquet.  If he killed a man who had never wronged him to make a point, then anyone in the opera house might be the next target.  And Christine had previously been his pupil, but then forsook his guardianship.  Who would be a better target for the Phantom’s anger?  She does not assume that her previous relationship with the Phantom or even his desire to have her sing his music will save her.  Furthermore, she was the only one who knew his true identity; when she tore of his mask, he erupted with anger and the ominous threat of “Now you cannot ever be free!”  And he had just demonstrated that he could, one way or another, get what he wanted and punish those who opposed him.

And where could she go to escape him?  She knew the cunning and mastery the Phantom had, the terror he could hold over people.  If he could sneak around unseen in the opera house, he could probably find her if she tried to leave the  company.  Furthermore, she had only recently taken star roles, and before that, she had been a chorus and ballet girl—a job that did not pay well in 19th century theatre.  (I’ve done some research.)  She probably didn’t have the money to go anywhere else, and she couldn’t just walk away from her source of income and immediately find another job to support her.

She tries to convince Raoul that the Phantom actually exists—and since she had been so easily manipulated by the Phantom once before—since she still felt a pull to his music—she may also be afraid that she will fall under his spell and return to him semi-willingly.  And he would probably not let her return to the upper world again.  She insists she has been to the Phantom’s home, which she describes in no rosy terms, but as a “world of unending night”, and “a world where the daylight dissolves into darkness.”

However, the situation is more complex than that, and Christine knows it.  She then explains the beauty of the man’s voice, a power and skill that captured her soul even while she feared his sway.  Then she reveals had seen sadness, pleading in his eyes.  Think about that; after being taken underground to a strange place, being nearly hypnotized and then being frightened by his deformity, Christine had noticed and remembered the grief in the man’s eyes.  It’s significant that this is the final piece of information she imparts to Raoul: the first was the ugliness and terror of the Phantom; the second was the power and beauty of his music; but the third was his sadness and loneliness.  This speaks volumes for her priorities and her compassion.

It’s also at this point that I take back my first impression that Christine was emotionally weak.  Because even though Raoul has made it clear he does not believe her story, or at least can’t understand it, she keeps telling him about her experience with the Phantom.  It’s possible she’s just thinking aloud; but since she called out to Raoul when Buquet falls dead from the rafters—and he came at once—she must have some level of trust in him.  Remember that she doesn’t confide in just anyone; only in those whom she considers her friends.

Just imagine the relief and comfort Raoul’s words must have given to a girl who’d been lonely and unprotected for years.  But she has grown wiser in several ways since the beginning of the story.  Firstly, she stipulates different priorities for a relationship. Earlier, she referred to the Phantom as “guide and guardian” and wanted him to “grant to me your glory,” and “come to me, strange Angel” (i.e. to reveal himself).  But here, she asks Raoul to love her “every waking moment.”  To cheer her emotionally and mentally—and to need her.  The Phantom had said he needed her “to sing for my music,” but Christine asks Raoul whether he needs her with him, “now and always.”  She wants to make sure that she fills a need in his entire life, just as he fills a need in hers.

Secondly, Christine isn’t seeking temporary relief and protection.  She is the first to specify a lifelong commitment with her line, “Say you need me with you now and always.”  And she continues to refer to a lifelong commitment through the rest of the song.  But she isn’t using Raoul for emotional fulfillment either.  She does want his companionship and protection, but she says, “you’ll guard me and you’ll guide me.”  In other words, she recognizes the need for a wiser head in her life.

And thirdly, though she is willing to trust Raoul, she also seeks assurance of his faithfulness.  ““Promise me that all you say is true,” this being “All I ask of you.”  Think about that: she is willing to trust Raoul after being betrayed by the man she had trusted as her guardian.  This speaks volumes for her opinion of her childhood friend.  And through the rest of the musical, she does trust him.  There’s no indication she doubts his love or his commitment.  (She hesitates at the Don Juan plan, but not because she doubts Raoul will protect her, or even doubts that the plan is necessary.  On the contrary, she’s knows it’s necessary, and that’s what makes her pause.)

Christine doesn’t promise specific actions of love the way Raoul does, but she does promise to share “each day…each night, each morning.”  And she fulfills that by staying with him during the rest of the musical, through their disagreement about announcing their engagement and through her hesitation about singing in Don Juan.  She also continues to confide in Raoul and to trust him unconditionally.  (Even if she disagrees with his methods.)  And she sticks with Raoul on his own merit.  Raoul never has to refer to her past or her memories to call her back to him; and if anything, Christine refers more to the present and the future than she’s with Raoul.  And promising to share a love and life with him is not a promise to be made lightly.  I think it indicates that she loves him, and so she wants to make sure her feelings are reciprocated.

Or, disgruntled Phantom/Christine shippers will say, all this is entirely selfish, and Christine simply wants to be rescued.  Well, she does want to be protected, but notice that she never asked Raoul—or anyone—for protection.  She looked to the Phantom as a guardian, but only because she believed he was a messenger from her father.  No one else has been Christine’s companion or protector, and she’s stood on her own two feet and earned her own living by her own discipline in the opera ballet corps.  And she seemed prepared to continue doing so (starring in Ill Muto, for example, despite the bad experience after her last appearance onstage).  When Raoul offered his protection and hinted at a romantic relationship, Christine accepted—but wisely specified a long-term commitment and also assured herself that Raoul was completely trustworthy and that he truly valued her and needed her.

She also repeatedly refers to both of them sharing a lifetime, and she is willing to follow Raoul wherever he goes: “Say the word, and I will follow you.”  Selfish motives here simply don’t match her actions and character through the entire story.  She’s a loving, compassionate young woman who dearly values her friends and family, and who trust implicitly those she considers friends, but who also is under no more delusions about the reality of the situation.  And since she later hesitated to betray the Phantom, whom she knew was untrustworthy and a confirmed murderer besides, would she really accept Raoul, whom she knew she could trust, with ulterior motives?

Interesting, though that Christine never says directly to Raoul “I love you.”  I think this was done deliberately to keep her motives ambiguous; but based on her actions, I do think she loved Raoul genuinely.

As I did with Raoul’s posts, I shall end Part 1 of this post at the end of Act 1.  Stay tuned for Part 2!

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10 Favorite Musicals! – Part 1

Overflowing Mind & Pen

All right, it’s here!  10 favorite musicals implies, of course, that I enjoy and listen to more than just those; the ones that didn’t make the top favorites list are: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Maury Yeston’s Phantom; The Lord of the Rings; The In-Between; The Sound of Music; Cinderella; and H. M. S. Pinafore.  (I may have forgotten a couple; I listen to a lot of musicals.  🙂 )

As such, I’m going to mention three favorites in this post, three more in the next post, and the final four in the last post.  Writing about all ten in one post would probably break the record for the World’s Longest Post Fangirling Post About Musicals.

Right, we’re off.

#1: Jane Eyre

Adapted from Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre tells the story of an orphan from her loveless childhood to her lonely young womanhood as a governess—but her situation is at Thornfield hall, the master of which, Mr. Rochester, kindles a spark of life in her that had remained long hidden.

Great.  I just made my favorite novel sound like a CBD romance thingy.

Anyway, Jane Eyre is my favorite musical of all time, which is why I’m mad that it (a) closed after only 7 months and (b) was apparently never filmed.  Or at least never released on DVD.  Fortunately, there’s a soundtrack available, and when I discovered the musical in June 2014, I fell in love with the score instantly.

This musical is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book (second only to the 1983 mini-series with Timothy Dalton).  Most notably, Helen is an influential character, and the story includes her faith and its impact on Jane’s character.  Helen even gets a beautiful number of her own: the song “Forgiveness”.  Also, in many of the songs, the lyrics are phrases or wording taken straight from the book (though tweaked to fit rhythm and rhyme).

The musical did make some changes: St. John not only has a minor role, but he was upgraded to be slightly kinder than he was in the book.  Also, Mrs. Fairfax was turned from a quiet, orderly housekeeper into an absent-minded figure of comic relief.  I understand the reason; the story needed some humor, and a stage play doesn’t adapt Charlotte Bronte’s dry wit very well, unless the audience is willing to sit for 3 hours listening to exchange of dialogue.  Still, it’s one thing to add comic relief; another to change a character’s entirely personality.

In general, however, the story stuck to the source material.  And the music is beautiful on its own merit: the melodies are haunting, quiet, souring, lonely, joyful.  The lyrics are poetic, passionate, and encouraging.  (That said, there is some scattered cursing throughout the songs; Mr. Rochester is the main culprit here.  Just something to watch out for.)

In fact, it’s hard to pick a favorite song; it would be easier to list the numbers I don’t care for (only three out of 25!).  But I’m going to go with Helen’s song “Forgiveness”.  In it, she admonishes Jane that “You have to be strong to offer good for evil, to return right for wrong.”  So many people act like a stubborn, fighting attitude is strength.  And if you’re fighting for what’s right, yes.  But it’s equally as strong to hold your tongue and “learn to endure.”  On the flip side, she tells Jane “You can continue to grieve, but know the Gospel* is true.  You must forgive those who lie and bless them that curse you.”  In other words, there’s no need to be a stoic about suffering, but to endure it with the knowledge that God knows–and blesses–who is right.

*I’m not sure if she means that “forgive those who lie” is the Gospel, or if she’s referring to the Gospel and the principle separately.  The first case is incorrect; “forgive those who like &etc.” is not the Gospel…but substituting the word “scripture” removes this problem.  🙂

 

#2: The Phantom of the Opera

Erik instructs young soprano Christine Daae in singing, masquerading as her Angel of Music.  Erik also terrorizes the opera house as the mysterious Phantom of the Opera.  When Christine learns his true identity, she flees from his guardianship, but this Phantom has a desperate fixation on her, hoping for her love.

 I’m terrible at writing any synopsis, apparently.  Also, it’s hard to describe every aspect of The Phantom of the Opera.

Which is one reason why I like it.  At first glance, the story seems to be a Gothic romance; and to some degree, it is, but it’s also about love, trust, and compassion.  The Phantom, hideously deformed and therefore outcast from society, desperately seeks Christine’s love, but goes about winning it the wrong way.  Christine, alone in the world after her father’s death, also seeks love and guardianship and at first thinks she’ll find them in the Phantom, at first trusts him.  But then that trust is shattered when the Phantom reveals his true identity.  Christine flees, and puts her trust in Raoul, her childhood playmate and now her sweetheart who also seeks to win her love.  Which turn of events, of course, angers the Phantom.

So yes, in one sense it’s a Gothic romance, and there is definitely a love triangle.  But it’s not a beautifully dramatic one; if anything, it complicates things, brings terror and doom to Raoul and Christine.  Christine knows the Phantom is dangerous and must be stopped, but she can’t help but pity him.  Raoul would move heaven and earth to protect Christine, and the Phantom would destroy heaven and earth to win her love. In fact, he tries to do just that.

But then, at the end, he performs an act of sacrificial love.  All three of the protagonists, in fact, display sacrificial love for someone else, and that, I think, is ultimately what the story is about.  If you truly love someone, what will you give up for his/her happiness?

Speaking of love, this musical has one of my favorite love songs of all time, “All I Ask of You.”  And yes, the lyrics describe sacrificial love.  Rather than being a feel-good, he’s-the-one-who-flutters-my-heart type of love song, it speaks of service and leadership, sacrifice and loyalty, trust and commitment.

(Raoul)

No more talk of darkness

Forget these wide-eyed fears

I’m here; nothing can harm you

My words will warm and calm you

Let me be your freedom

Let daylight dry your tears

I’m here, with you, beside you

To guard you and to guide you.

(Christine)

Say you’ll love me every waking moment

Turn my head with talk of summertime

Say you need me with you now and always

Promise me that all you say is true

That’s all I ask of you

The rest of the score is similar: powerful lyrics and beautiful melodies.  I fell in love with the film soundtrack at age 12 and fell in love with the 25th Anniversary Concert about 10 years later, and I’ve never looked back.  The vocal talent required to perform this musical is impressive, and I’ve wanted to sing like Christine ever since I heard the film soundtrack.  For the record, my favorite Phantom is John Owen-Jones, my favorite Christine is Gina Beck (with Rebecca Caine as a close second), and my favorite Raoul is a toss-up between Hadley Fraser and Steve Barton.  (When I’m not feeling well, I listen to Barton’s performance of “All I Ask of You”; his voice is so gentle and steady and reassuring.)

And there’s dancing in this musical.  I tend to like a musical better if there’s dancing as well as singing, and this one contains two nice ballet numbers.  And the musical also has funny, lighthearted lines and sequences to break up the tension of the main story line.

Lastly, I love the characters of this story.  I like Christine and Raoul the best, but all three main characters are deeper and more layered than they first appear.  Christine, for example, comes across as air headed at first, but when you look closer, you see that she takes the word of those she trusts and is cautious around people whom she does not trust so closely.  Raoul seems to be (at best) a hot piece of cardboard and (at worst) an obstacle to the Phantom’s happiness, until you look closer and understand his reasoning and his devotion to Christine.  I’ve written and posted a dissertation about Raoul’s character (and one staunchly in defense of his good qualities, as he is generally hated by the fandom), and I’m working on a dissertation about Christine’s.  And I’ll probably write one for the Phantom at some point.

The only caveats are scattered cursing throughout the musical, and the number “The Point of No Return” has some pretty sensual subtext.  We just skip that song.  🙂

As with the musical Jane Eyre, it’s hard to pick a favorite song from The Phantom of the Opera.  But I’m going to go with “All I Ask of You” because it’s about trust, loyalty, commitment.  It speaks of sacrifice from both parties; it centers on the mutual need they have for each other; yet it also is romantic.  How much more romantic can you get than a man promising to “hold you and to hide you.”?

 

#3: A Tale of Two Cities

Adapted from Dickens’ novel, the story describes three French families suffering from the corruption of the French nobility shortly before the Revolution.  Lucie Manette, after being reunited with her father, who was unjustly imprisoned in the Bastille for years, remove to England and become acquainted with Charles Darnay, a young Frenchman with something of a mysterious past.  Meanwhile in France, the Defarges had enough with the suffering of their people and become instrumental in the acts of the Revolution.  All these characters impact each other in minor ways on the surface, but they are also connected in a more sinister way, that, when discovered, that will resurface deep anger and pain.

Give me a break.  It’s hard to describe Dickens’ novels succinctly.  But then, that’s why I love them.  🙂

This is one of the few musicals that can make me cry.  I am not the sort to cry over books and films; if someone tells me, “Oh, that movie is a tearjerker,” there is actually 99% chance I will not cry.  But with this story, I’m always in a puddle by the Finale, if not long before.  In fact, I tend to lose it when Charles weeps during “Let Her Be A Child.”

The musical focuses more on Sydney Carton, the English lawyer who frees Charles Darnay from an unjust trial in England, but who seems not to care about anything in the world.  Which is untrue; his careless attitude merely conceals a heart of long-enduring pain and disappointment.  (Actually, it’s the PBS Theatrical concert [available on DVD] that focuses on Sydney and his character arc.  The theatrical concert is an abridged form of the Original Broadway production.  The OBC was filmed, apparently, but never released on DVD *grumble growl*.  However, we do have the theatrical concert, and it gives a taste of what the full production must be like.)

What’s interesting to me is the contrasts between the main characters.  Sydney compares himself (unfavorably) to Charles Darnay, and Lucie is simply but powerfully compared to Madame Defarge.  Both ladies lost their families at a young age.  Both suffered at the hands of aristocrats.  Both endured loneliness and pain.  But each lady responded to that differently.  Madame Defarge let the pain twist her into cold fury, an anger that could be satisfied (in theory) only by revenge: “I’ve waited twenty-five years for this day!  Doctor Manette may forget; Doctor Manette may forgive, but this one survivor will never let Evremonde live!”

Lucy, on the other, hand, let that pain make her compassionate*.  She did not become hard and bitter; when reunited with her father after all those years, she says, “We both were lost, but now that’s all behind us, all the endless years I never knew you.”  She does not resent the family who unjustly imprisoned her father; and she does not condemn the descendant of that family for his ancestor’s actions.

It is this kindness and forgiveness that gets Sydney Carton’s attention.  She treats him like a normal human being and shows concern for his welfare; upon learning that he was not at church on Christmas Eve, she simply says, “It’s not our business where you were, Mr. Carton,” and invites him to share Christmas dinner with her family, saying he was not eating enough and needed a little fattening.

*This observation is not actually mine; this post brought the contrast to my attention.

This kindness and forgiveness helps Sydney see the world in a new light.  In his song “I Can’t Recall,” he says, “The heavens seem an inch away, not cold and empty like before.”  It almost sounds as though he viewed God as a distant being, one who did not listen and did not care about the world below, much less Sydney’s own hopelessness.  But Lucie’s caring put into words and actions the benevolence attributed to God.  And by the end of the musical, his outlook about God and sacrifice has changed completely.

And I need to change the subject before I melt into a useless puddle.

The melodies in this story are unique because of how amazingly they mirror and evoke the emotion of the moment.  But the lyrics are especially powerful.  For example, the song “Everything Stays the Same” describes the futility of the violence of the French Revolution, and quite frankly, it reminds me of the whining protests going on today.

Come join the revolution

Come play the latest game

Not much has changed, but then again

Not everything stays the same

Because of the amazing lyrics, it’s hard to pick a favorite song.  Get used to that line of thought; it’s prevalent among my favorite musicals.  After much thought, and nail-biting, and hair-pulling, and listening to the soundtrack again, and listening to my favorite songs on repeat, and all but dissolving into a puddle again, I picked “Let Her Be A Child” as my favorite.  Sydney muses on the fate of Lucie’s family–and her daughter–if Charles is unjustly killed, and resolves to do all he can to save him.

Sydney now considers others more important than himself.  The bitterness and hopelessness of his life has faded; he received the unreserved love of the whole Darnay family: Charles, Lucie, and their little girl.  Which showed him, in a way, the love of God.  The Darnays treated him like a member of their family, and Sydney does not hesitate now to show how much he cares.  As he tells another character, “They gave me a family; now I’m giving it back.”

“It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done.  It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

~Sydney Carton

*melts into a useless puddle*

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Picture Friday

Posting a day early because TOMORROW IS CHRISTMAS!  And I shall be busy either celebrating or chilling with my family–Chris and I have a tradition of watching A Child’s Christmas in Wales together every Christmas Eve.  So, long story short, I shan’t have the time or interest to post on Saturday.

Sydney Carton must be my art muse.  A reasonable explanation for why I draw him all the time.  Wonder what he would think about that if he knew?  He probably wouldn’t care and would ignore me whenever I sat near to draw him.  Which, on the one hand, means he wouldn’t immediately get up and leave in a huff,  ruining the pose and reference.  On the other hand, he wouldn’t necessarily bother to sit still.

It suddenly occurs to me how insane I sound to people who are not writers, and who therefore do not have conversations with imaginary characters, their own or others’, in their heads on a daily basis.  🙂

Anyway, this is the scene from the book in which Sydney wanders Paris the night before Charles’s second trial and after gaining secret entry to the prison if needed.  That wandering scene haunts me; in a way, Sydney is lonely in the sense of being physically alone and also alone in knowledge, having formed his final plan and resolved to act upon it.  But it’s not the utter isolation, the void of comfort and cheerful company, that he faced earlier in the story.  Not to mention the fact that we get a little of Sydney’s backstory here, and that he remembers Scripture for possibly the first time in years.

On a whim, I drew Christine Daae getting ready for a performance.  Hence the slightly exaggerated facial features (I love drawing actor/actress characters in stage makeup).  In my imagination, she’s in a play or opera centering around the Greek myth of Persephone.

Michael Maguire as Enjorlas from the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables.  I drew this as a last-minute present for Gingersnap, and I do mean last-minute.  Around 2:00 p.m. the day of her birthday, I realized I hadn’t gotten her anything–my contribution is usually a decorated cake, which was out of the question due to my recovering from sickness–and the drawing idea popped into my mind.  I found and printed a reference photo, dashed back to my bedroom, and sketched and erased with all haste.  Approximately 5 hours later, the drawing was finished–and even then, I had to dash back to my room while family and guests served themselves dinner (it was a buffet-style spread) and finish the jacket.  But Gingersnap was pleased; Michael Maguire is one of her favorite singers.

I had “Red and Black” in my head almost the whole time I was drawing.  Not that that’s a bad song to have stuck in your head…

Finally, the happy Sydney picture I promised!  Here he is with little Lucie and in a scene that isn’t exactly from the book, but one that might have happened.  And it makes me happy.

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

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Phantom Film Remake Wish List

I do like some aspects of the 2004 film–it’s a film of one of my favorite musicals, after all, and the instrumentals and sets are fabulous.  And some of the character moments are touching.  Gerard Butler was a better actor for the Phantom than singer; I have no objection to him portraying the character, but I wish the filmmakers had dubbed his voice over with John Owen-Jones’s or some professional singer.  Also, I think Patrick Wilson was underused in the film, and is under-appreciated for his portrayal of Raoul, which I discussed in this post.

Point being, the 2004 film has a few good points–but a lot of flaws that could be corrected in a remake.  So here’s what I’d like to see should anyone undertake that task:

  • #1 requirement: a cast who can sing. This should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it’s not.  Half of the story’s beauty and power would vanish if Christine and the Phantom lacked professional and polished singing voices.  And hey, since it’s a musical, the rest of the cast also needs to be able to sing!  Melody and vocals are the storytelling medium here, and part of what drives the plot.

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  • #2 requirement: a cast who can act.  Since this would be a film version of a stage musical, both singing and acting abilities are essential.  And it’s not a shot for the moon to require both: in the 2012 film Les Miserables, Aaron Tveit was a polished singer and talented actor; in the 2000 Broadway production of Jane Eyre, James Barbour not only had a powerhouse voice (and very versatile) he portrayed Mr. Rochester almost perfectly.  Same for his portrayal of Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities.

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  • #3 requirement: a deformity that looks hideous.  This is essential to the power of the story.  If the Phantom is only moderately ugly when unmasked, it destroys the whole reason he was outcast from society, and destroys the power of Christine’s compassion and sacrifice.  The cool thing is, with all the special effects filmmakers have at their fingertips these days, they could make the deformity really horrific and gross.

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  • #4 requirement: no Love Never Dies set-up.  No longing looks back as Christine leaves, no over-aggressiveness or pushiness from Raoul, no hints that Christine and the Phantom got too cozy down in the lair—nothing of that sort.  The idea of a sequel actually undermines the mystery and tragedy of that last Phantom scene—and LND not only destroyed that power and mystery, but it ruined the characters as well.  For example, in LND, the Phantom still pines for Christine–understandable–but also ignores the choice he made to let Christine and Raoul go, and pulls almost the exact same kidnapping and threats he performed in the last musical in order to keep Christine near him.  Seriously?  That completely ruins his sacrifice in the original musical.  Would the Phantom miss Christine?  Of course.  Would he perhaps dream about “the way things might have been”?  Possibly.  Would he try to take her back?  I don’t think so–I think he would have stuck with his choice.  And I’m not even going to mention what LND did to Raoul, or I might explode.

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  • #5 requirement: filling in of “missing scenes.” The following are what I particularly want to see:
    • What, exactly, did Raoul do after discovering Christine gone from her dressing room? Given the lengths he goes to protect her in the musical, I don’t see him thinking, “Whelp, she’s gone.  Might as well go home and get some supper.  Like, on my own…thanks, Christine.”  He’s going to get to the bottom of the matter.  It could be set up something like this: after Christine vanishes into the mirror, Raoul comes back and looks around in bewilderment.  During the opening notes of the title song, the Phantom and Christine head through the passages to the lair; then the scene cuts to a quick shot of Raoul speaking to two or three people, his face worried, and they answer by shaking their heads.  Then the scene cuts back to tunnels, and Christine begins to sing the title song.  The sequence continues until after “Music of the Night”—the camera cuts to Raoul in entrance to the Opera House, and the managers tell him, “We’ll send word if we find her.  Go home, Monsieur le Vicomte.”  Raoul looks over their shoulders to the policemen conferring inside, and then puts on his hat and reluctantly leaves.  As he crosses the street, a tower clock strikes 3: 00 a. m.   (I don’t think the timing is too far-fetched: if the opera started at, say, 8: 00 p. m. and lasted until 11:00 p. m. or 12:00 a. m., it would probably take an hour or so for everyone to become aware of the disappearance and summon the police, and another hour or two to realize that nothing further could be done that night.)  Then Christine wakes up in the Phantom’s lair, and “I Remember” starts.
    • How long was Christine missing after her debut?  The musical indicates it was only one night, but the newspapers somehow got wind of it–as I mentioned in my Raoul Defense posts, I have a head canon that a journalist showed up to interview the new soprano, but before he had a chance, he ran into a worried Raoul, and, well, there you go.  (This discrepancy in the story’s time line probably occurred by ALW’s condensing how long Christine was kidnapped.  In the book, it was two weeks, giving everyone plenty of time to notice and discuss her disappearance.)  There aren’t huge questions or gaping plot holes, but a film could devote a few lines to answering them.
    • What happened in the 6-months the Phantom was absent?  Did Christine continue to sing?  If so, was it as a soprano or as a background vocalist?  This would be interesting to answer, as both she and Carlotta are at the masquerade, with apparently no enmity between them—possibly suggesting that Christine sung as a chorus girl or understudy.  Which then begs the question: why didn’t the Phantom do anything about this?—all these questions could be answered in some dialogues between the managers or cast members wondering where the Phantom is and scenes of rehearsal in which Carlotta rubs the role reversal in chorus-girl-Christine’s face.

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  • Lavish sets.  ‘Nuff said.  But I’ll say more anyway.  The stage versions of the musical just can’t convey the power of atmosphere and color that a film could.  A film has the opportunity to show the glitter of the stage; the richness of the theatre boxes and the (non-ghostly) occupants; the bustle and messiness of backstage; the roof of the Opera House, so high above the rest of the world and drenched in moonlight; the dark elegance of the Phantom’s lair lit with hundreds of candles and strange inventions in the corners; the underground tunnels and lake…

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  • Nods to the Leroux novel, such as the Phantom’s violin-playing.  It would be amazing if, after Christine’s swoon, he plays a little of Music of the Night on his violin before finishing, “help me make the music of the night…”.  Perhaps also, Raoul could mention (with some disgust) his elder brother who’d gone to see a mistress in the north of France, and Christine referencing the family that took her in after her father’s death and provided for her education.

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  • Raoul swimming the lake to get to the Phantom’s lair.  A strange wish, maybe, but it’s a cool piece of action, and it would heighten the tension by showing how frantic he is, what danger he is willing to risk in order to find Christine.  It would also show that, no, he is not a sissy.

So that’s my Phantom film remake wish list.  What would you all like to see in a remake?

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Picture Saturday–Watercolors & Phanart!

Did you know I paint with watercolors?  This started back in 2011 after a couple of dear elderly friends passed away.  The widows would be alone that Christmas, and so I decided to send them Christmas cards.  And I decided to paint the frontispieces myself, because I wanted the cards to be handmade.  Those first paintings were disproportionate and messy, but the recipients liked the cards nonetheless.  🙂

I’ve kept the tradition of sending those Christmas cards, and overtime, I’ve read tutorials and practiced and learned how to use watercolors better.

All that said, I hadn’t painted much this year–it takes time, and I was either busy or tired.  But early this week, I got out all those supplies, and cranked out three paintings in two days.  New artist record for me!  And it was good to paint again.

56-winter-sunset

Because I hadn’t painted in a while, I warmed up with this freehand (i.e. little or no line art) of a winter landscape.  I particularly like the way the colors in the sky turned out.

 

57-delicate-flower

This one is a re-paint of a subject I did earlier this year.  In my first attempt, the background was chalky and caked up, which ruins the quality of watercolor.  This version turned out better, although the colors did cake up a little here and there.  You probably can’t tell, though, unless you’re a watercolor artist yourself.  Or a perfectionist.  🙂

 

58-summer-tomatoes

And then I painted this, referenced from a photograph I took of Granddad’s tomatoes.

Watercolor paintings are not all I did this week…

59-swimming-girl

A girl in the water–I used a photo I found on Pinterest as reference.  I wanted to capture the hazy, little-to-no contrast of the dress under the water, and the texture of the wet hair.

 

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Christine and Raoul fluff!  I think the phandom needs more Christine/Raoul fanart (though some artists do create it), and definitely needs more fluff fanart.  I mean, they’re in love, aren’t they?  And they need some lighthearted moments after all they went through.

Speaking of what they went through…

61-after-final-lair

…they had to have suffered post-traumatic stress of some kind.  Possibly flashbacks, possibly nightmares, perhaps difficulty trusting anyone (besides each other), and maybe fear of losing each other.  I could see Raoul becoming somewhat over-protective as a result.  Anyway, in this picture, they’ve been married for a few months, and Christine had a nightmare.  So Raoul is comforting her.

As a side note, I drew this in maybe 2 1/2 hours, which is lightening-fast for me.  Also, I had a lot of fun drawing Raoul’s messy hair.  🙂

I am definitely drawing more Christine/Raoul fluff next week!

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Picture Saturday–From the Archives

My whole family and I are still getting over lingering effects of illness.  We’re feeling a lot better than we were early this week and late last week–but unfortunately, I don’t have any new artwork to show.  So today’s Picture Saturday will be old drawings.

Old, as in, within the last year or two.  🙂  And it will be exclusively Phantom of the Opera fan art as well.

 

While working on this, I learned how to properly use my 2H and HB pencils.  See, I used to employ the 2B–7B to “color” the drawing–e.g. “color” the lightest values with a 2B and then use 3B for light-ish “colors” and 4B for medium shades, and so on.  It never worked; the drawings always turned out smudged and muddy.  But for this drawing, I used the 2H and HB pencils to sketch the shadows and then deepen the values, layer by layer.  A much cleaner, crisper shadow transition.

 

I drew this on impulse from a screencap from the 2004 film.  And of course, only as I prepare to post the drawing, do I notice that the lantern is crooked.  Oh well.

 

This has got to be one of my favorite drawings!  I loved the lighting in that scene and just had to capture it.  Blue pastel paper conveys the pre-dawn lighting quite well.

 

And here’s the companion piece!  I have these drawings in matching frames on my wall.  This scene in the film is one of my favorites: the early morning atmosphere, the violin music in the background, Christine unwittingly entering danger and Raoul dashing after her in desperation…it’s beautifully haunting.

 

A couple of sketches–which I forced myself to leave rough–of Raoul from the film.  Here, he’s sliding down a rope from Box 5 to the floor of the opera house.  At least he knows the shortest distance between two points.  🙂

 

And here, he’s dashing backstage to make sure Christine is all right.  Such a jerk.  #sarcasm

 

This is actually Book-Christine, and I deliberately drew her face turned away and with the objects around her as clues to her identity.  She’s wearing a scarf and holding a picture of Raoul (drawing?  Photograph?  You decide).  On the table is a photograph of her father in a frame, a stack of letters, a sheet of music, her father’s violin bow, and a playbill from Faust (the opera featured in the book).  And a rose on the windowsill as a nod to the stage show.  The pearls are there just because I thought they would look good on the table.

 

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Sierra Boggess as Christine.  This was supposed to be a doodle, but I got carried away with the shading.  That happens often…

 

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Sarah Brightman as Christine!  Referenced from a promotional shot, mainly because I wanted to practice drawing poses, and using my colored pencils.  I like how the folds on her dress turned out.

That’s all for now!

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Picture Saturday

I borrowed this idea from Treskie, who very kindly let me use it.  Also, go check out her Picture Saturday posts, because they’re awesome and a highlight of my week!

Basically, Picture Saturday showcases the work the artist accomplished that week (or most of it).  All my artwork this week is colored pencil drawings on toned sketch paper.  Toned paper is amazing, people.  It holds both graphite and colored pencil well, and provides easy mid tones for graphite drawings, so that all you have to do is add shadows and highlights.

Although, with colored pencil, you still have to put down those mid tones, but the color of the paper pulls the drawing together nicely.

41-Orange-colored pencil study

I like drawing oranges in colored pencil.  It’s fun to layer the hues of yellow, orange, and red.  Also, I’m too lazy to draw backgrounds at the moment; a wonky blue plaid tablecloth is as good as it gets right now.  🙂

42-Knitting , Knitting, 1, 2, 3--colored pencil study

I drew this while watching the Olympics.  It’s been a challenge learning how to layer colored pencil; I’m used to painting with transparent watercolors, which requires different coloring and rendering techniques.  Anyway, I love how the stitches on the lower needled turned out!

43-Lighthouse in pencil

Two colors I have learned to layer well are indigo and dark brown.  Together, they make a nice, rich black, a color I prefer to mix or layer rather than buy pre-made.  This preference started as I was learning to use watercolor; the tutorials advised mixing black paint over buying a tube of black paint.  I followed this advice, and it carried over into my colored pencil work as well.

And my favorite for the week…

44-Emmy Rossum Christine

Emmy Rossum’s Christine.  Her portrayal of the character is not my favorite, but those curls are such fun to draw!  And I learned more layering techniques while working on this piece: I lightly drew the facial highlights and the shadows in their correct places and then brushed over both (except the very lightest highlights) with an in-between color: Nectar, in this case.  This smoothed the colors and made a nice transition between light and dark.  Then I deepened the shadows with more browns and a touch of indigo (a little of this goes a long way) and touched up the highlights with more layers of white pencil.  And then brushed over both with that in-between color, deepened shadows, brightened highlights, &etc. until the shades and hues matched my reference photo.

That’s all for this week!  Maybe I’ll have more drawings ready by next Saturday.

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A Few Notes about Raoul (Part Two)

My sister Gingersnap told me the other day that her inbox holds a string of emails from me that she hasn’t had time to read.  The emails are unread because they are so long, each requiring a hefty time commitment.  The fact that I had to break this post into two parts corroborates the account.  But if I could crave your indulgence for a little longer, I’ll elaborate some more about Raoul and finally wrap up this dissertation.

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Act II picks up six months later at the opera’s masquerade ball.  Christine is clearly excited about her relationship with Raoul and becoming his “future bride,” but begs that their engagement remain secret.  Raoul wants to know why, and he points out that they’re not doing anything wrong.  This can’t be the first time he’s inquired about her motives, nor can it be the first time Christine refused to give an answer, but they’ve stuck together for half a year, apparently without any serious disagreement other than announcing their engagement.  And of course, Christine hesitates to make it public only because of her fear of the Phantom, and she knows Raoul won’t understand this.  Raoul will not understand because he sees no good reason to believe in this Phantom.

But this impasse highlights two more points of Raoul’s character: he surrenders to Christine’s wish, in spite of no good reason that he can see for waiting.  He doesn’t need to get a job before marrying, or buy a house, or solicit any approval, or wait for rich Uncle Augustus up in the north of France to die and leave an inheritance.  The only reason to delay is Christine’s wish, and he has respected that wish for six months.

(You know, I can’t take much more of this rotten behavior.  He’s getting worse by the paragraph.)

In the second place, it’s notable that Raoul wants to announce their engagement.  If you think about it, he ought to be the one insisting on secrecy: Christine is a foreign peasant girl, and his aristocratic friends aren’t going to give him a Hero of the Year award for marrying her.  From their perspective, Raoul is making a terrible, shameful choice financially and socially.  From Raoul’s perspective, the Paris aristocracy can jump in the lake.

But why does he want to announce his engagement to Christine?  The musical doesn’t directly state his reasons, but he might seek to clear her reputation.  The managers assumed she was his mistress in “Prima Donna,” and certainly no one thinks it odd that they spend the masquerade together.  He might also want to clear his own name; given that he wants to marry her, not just have a fling, he probably wants to remove any false assumptions about them both.  He is also straightforward type, and might simply dislike the understand dealing.

Point being, he is more than willing to announce their engagement, regardless of social consequences, and he sees no good reason to wait.  As far as he can see, the madman has disappeared and is no longer a threat.  But Raoul doesn’t try to force Christine’s confidence, simply hoping that he’d understand in time.

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And he does before ten minutes have elapsed.  He realizes the truth when a literal person showed up, took credit for the notes and the shattered chandelier, and ordered the performance of his opera with the threat of more consequences if management did not.  If that wasn’t enough, the man addressed his fiancée with “Your chains are still mine; you will sing for me!”—and vanished.

Now several missing pieces have fallen into place, and Raoul, remembering Madame Giry’s warnings from months ago, seeks her out and demands the full story.  He also connects her information with Christine’s words that night on the rooftop, guessing that the Phantom was a composer—and was deformed.  (His reaction to hearing that the Phantom had been deformed from birth indicates horror at this fate.)   And once Raoul becomes convinced of this man’s existence, he never denies it again and focuses his energy on ending this threat and protecting Christine.

While discussing the situation with the managers, Raoul tries to discover how they will respond to the Phantom’s demands—he can’t make much headway thanks to Carlotta’s and Piangi’s interruptions, and the managers pressuring Christine to sing so that the Opera House doesn’t lose a second chandelier, among other things.  Raoul, on the other hand, assures Christine she doesn’t have to sing in Don Juan if she doesn’t want to.

At this point, I get mobbed by hordes of angry phans hitting me with the subsequent pages of the script in which Raoul turns right back around and tries to convince her to sing in order to trap the Phantom, demonstrating him as insensitive, abusive, and hypocritical.

Ahem.  Perhaps this wasn’t the best way to go about ending the threat; I myself have mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, using Christine as bait (which is almost what it is) was harmful to her emotionally.  On the other hand—what else could they do?  Surrendering to the Phantom’s demands will keep the Opera House locked in terror; disobeying will mean the loss of more property and lives.  The Phantom was a danger, not just to Christine, but to the whole Opera House; he had already killed one man and could have killed more had the chandelier fallen in a different place.  He had to be caught before he took more lives.  But Raoul knows by this time that the Phantom could evade capture easily in the Opera House.  This plan was the only way to draw him out.

On that note, no one expected the Phantom to show up on stage.  Raoul later says to the policemen: “Do you have a clear view of that box?”  It was there, he thought, the Phantom would be, especially since he had written the opera and would want to enjoy it from the position of theatre-goer.  If anyone had any reason to suspect that the Phantom would be onstage and backstage, they would send the policeman there.  And Raoul would never knowingly put Christine in danger.

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When she begs him not to make her sing, Raoul reminds her that she herself said he was nothing but a man (and therefore, not supernatural)—yet that he was powerful enough “to haunt us ‘till we’re dead.”  This is a sensible reminder, however unwelcome in the stress of the moment. During the six months of their engagement, there was no danger (that Raoul knew of) and no need for action, and so he surrendered to Christine’s wish.  Here, multiple lives are in danger, and the Phantom must be stopped.  And so he tries to get her to see the situation for what it is, and that she is the only one who can make the plan work.  He encourages Christine with appropriate sympathy–but he never explicitly commands her to sing.  Right before the performance, the managers doubted she’d show up; Firmin asks, “Will Miss Daae sing?”  Raoul doesn’t answer yes or no because he has no idea himself.

Raoul, in fact, is doing the best he can with the information he has.  If you think about it, he still doesn’t have all the knowledge that the viewers have: namely, the full extent of the Phantom’s power—and the relationship between him and Christine.  Raoul doesn’t know this because Christine never tells him.  It certainly wasn’t during their six-month engagement, and she probably didn’t have time after the masquerade.  So he just doesn’t know.  The category he fits into is nobody-told-me rather than insensitive-jerk.

After Christine runs out of the room in agony, Raoul snaps and shouts a challenge to the general vicinity (wherever the Phantom might be)—he’s had it with the secrecy and danger and terrorizing, but he doesn’t lose it like this until Christine crumbles in torment.

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While the Phantom is still loose, Raoul needs to keep a watch on Christine, which is probably why he shows up at the cemetery in “Wandering Child.”  Imagine his horror when he sees a man perched above the gravestone, singing to her with words of gentleness and fatherly love—oh yeah, the same man who kidnapped her months ago, frightened her, and dropped a chandelier at her feet.  The last conclusion Raoul draws is that the Phantom truly loved her.  In fact, Raoul wonders outright if this man is a seducer.

At the same time, he wonders who on earth this person is.  He knows only that the Phantom is a deformed man, living in the shadows of the opera and hovering around Christine, but his past and personality is a mystery.  Raoul knows he is human and not supernatural, yet he wonders at the connection to Christine, how this man knew enough to play on her memories.

But as the Phantom begins his call “I am your Angel of Music,” Raoul snaps again.  He calls the manipulation “torment.”  He knows Christine is emotionally vulnerable: she is at her father’s grave, and this man is taking advantage her memories, her loneliness, and the last promise from her father.  Then Raoul appeals to Christine, begging her to recall reality; when this appeal fails, he shouts at the Phantom, and then desperately turns back to Christine.  Raoul is almost helpless in this scene: he’s watching the woman he loves be manipulated where she is most vulnerable, and by an established murderer.  And Raoul is angry.  Angry and desperate.

It’s interesting that the Phantom plays on Christine’s memories of her father, on her longing, and on her father’s promise to send the “Angel of Music.”  Not only does this manipulate her, it seems to be the only way to draw her to him.  Raoul does no similar thing, and Christine sticks with him on his own merit and not because of her memories.  I mean, yeah, he’s her childhood friend, but there’s no pull to the past when she’s with Raoul as there is when she’s with the Phantom.  If anything, Christine refers more to the present and future when she’s with Raoul.

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At the last minute, she snaps out of her trance and runs to Raoul.  Our Vicomte has had it with the Phantom’s attitude, manipulation, and terrorizing; he accuses the Phantom of “deception [and] violence!”  He also confronts the Phantom’s warped romantic approach: “You can’t win her love by making her your prisoner!”  Notice that he says win her love instead of make her love you.  Christine’s love is something to be earned, not forced.  Of course, Raoul does not believe this man truly loves her, but he can’t understand the Phantom’s method of trying.  And according to one version of the lyrics, Raoul would have confronted the Phantom then and there (thus rending the Don Juan plan unnecessary) if Christine had not pulled him away.

Back at the opera, the managers wonder if Christine would show up in the first place to sing—meaning, obviously, that nobody forced her—and Raoul gets the policemen in position.  And he says, “Shoot—only if you have to—but shoot to kill.”  This is a marvelous insight into his character; he will end this threat however he must, but he’ll start by capturing the Phantom if possible, and taking extreme measures as a last resort.

The trap doesn’t work because nobody expected the Phantom to appear onstage.  When Raoul and the others realize who the Don Juan singer really is, he is too close to Christine for the policemen to safely fire.  The Phantom makes off with Christine, and Raoul snags Madame Giry (the only person, he knew, who had any information about the Phantom), and she directs him to the Phantom’s lair.  Raoul swims the underground lake—in the middle of winter, mind—to get there.

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Arriving at the lair, cold, wet, desperate, and afraid for Christine, Raoul begs the Phantom to free her, appealing to his humanity and pity.  He still has no idea of the Phantom’s loneliness and desperation for love.  All he sees is a man who has (again) manipulated and kidnapped Christine, and oh, yeah, now has her in a wedding dress.  I’m surprised he didn’t totally lose it when he saw that.  And how can anyone doubt Raoul’s feelings as he cries: “I love her!  Does mean nothing?  I love her!”  Not only that, he demonstrates his love with action: he sheltered and guarded Christine to the best of his ability; he put himself in personal danger to save her; and he will lay down his life if necessary

Getting nowhere with pleas for compassion, he begs to see Christine to make sure she’s unharmed.  With so much on his mind, it kinda makes sense that he forgets the whole “hand at the level of your eyes” thing.  And so the Phantom catches him in the Punjab lasso and threatens to kill him.

Raoul’s words after hearing this?  “Christine, forgive me.  Please, forgive me!”  His plan had backfired; he knew she was now facing more danger and pain than when onstage singing Don Juan.  And Raoul blames himself alone.  He doesn’t say, “Well, if you’d told me about all this long before the Masquerade…”  He doesn’t even accuse the Phantom.  Raoul takes the blame on himself, acknowledging that he put her, though unintentionally, in this desperate position, and begging her forgiveness.

I’ve seen his line “Say you love him, and my life is over” denounced as selfishness.  I think instead it’s fact combined with despair.  Christine engaged herself to Raoul, promised to spend the rest of her life with him, and for her to go back on that promise, either genuinely or to earn his freedom, would hurt him, badly.  And how could he live with himself knowing she threw away her happiness for his sake?  What he ultimately wants is for Christine to somehow get out of this mess unharmed and free.  If she remains behind with the Phantom, she will be trapped, and Raoul will be heartbroken on a number of levels.

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It’s interesting that Raoul demands of the Phantom: “Why make her lie to you to save me?”  To Raoul, it is utterly pointless to force her into giving the appearance of love when her heart doesn’t accompany it.  This is actually a smart and logical point (provided it didn’t tip the Phantom over the edge); by forcing Christine’s hand, the Phantom wouldn’t get her heartfelt promise.  And none of them would come out on top: Christine would be trapped into a life with the Phantom; he would not have the love he desperately wants; and Raoul would be free, but with nothing more to live for.

The Phantom is not rational enough to see this outcome; he is as desperate and angry as Raoul is, and it doesn’t occur to him how hollow Christine’s promise would be under the two choices.  So Raoul, all but hanging by a noose, begs his love not to throw away her life for his sake.  In “All I Ask of You,” he said, “Let me be your freedom.”  In “Final Lair,” he will fulfill that promise even if it requires his own death.

But through Christine’s compassion and sacrifice, the Phantom realizes his mistake and lets them both go.  Which makes me happy (although sorry for the Phantom); though Raoul was willing to die for Christine, I’m glad he didn’t have to.  And as he and Christine leave, they reaffirm their promise to each other.

And I made a timeline mistake in my previous post: Raoul first appears in the prologue.  The audience probably won’t understand the significance until the musical is over, however, so perhaps it’s just as well that I forgot the scene until now.  🙂  Anyway, in the prologue, Raoul buys the promotional poster for Hannibal and the Phantom’s music box, an item Christine often spoke of.  But what’s interesting is when the auctioneer speculates about the Phantom of the Opera, calling it “a mystery never fully explained.”  Guess which person there knows exactly what happened?  Raoul.  But he doesn’t speak up.  The Phantom said, “Swear to me never to tell!”  And Raoul didn’t, apparently not before this, and certainly not now.

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Raoul, in a nutshell, cares more for Christine than for himself.  He’s the both-feet-on-the-ground, straightforward type, a decisive, take-charge man, yet tender and loving toward Christine.  He does make some assumptions that are not grounded in reality and has a listening problem, but he truly love Christine and demonstrates his love by his actions.  He’s a multi-layered character with flaws and strengths; he makes both wise choices and mistakes.  He’s human, really.  And he’s a good man.

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A Few Notes About Raoul…

Or far too many.  🙂  If you’ve ever discussed with me the musical The Phantom of the Opera, you’ve probably picked up on my deep admiration for Raoul de Chagny.  Why, you may ask, do I admire him?—the character who had the audacity to fall in love with the girl he grew up with?  The character who thinks a noose-wielding kidnapper is dangerous and must be stopped?  The man who risked his life to save the woman he loved?  I mean, really.

Now that the sarcasm is out of my system (for now), on to the point: Raoul gets maligned and accused with his faults blown so out of proportion that he could sue for character defamation (and I just got a hilarious mental image of De Chagny vs. Webber over Love Never Dies).  But all of that slander and hate is not fair to Raoul because of his behavior, his roles in the story (he has several), and his personality.  In fact, there’s a lot more to Raoul than meets the eye; his character depth and his reasoning becomes clearer the more you watch the stage show or think about it or listen to the music.  The jury is still out on whether I’ve done too much of all that; but good, heroic characters are rare in this culture, and they should be defended.

First, to establish that Raoul is more than a hot piece of cardboard, here are his roles in the musical:

  • Main character. Not the protagonist, but he’s a dynamic character (regardless of the energy of the actor) whose strengths and flaws drive the story forward.  When Raoul refused to listen to Christine that night in the dressing room, the Phantom got the perfect opportunity to reveal himself.  But the very fact Raoul renewed his friendship with Christine enabled her to confide in him later.  He is a stable and comforting presence in her life, something she sorely needs—but he also complicates her relationship with the Phantom.
  • Love interest to Christine. This should be obvious, so that’s all I’ll say about that.
  • Contrast to the Phantom. Raoul is practical and straightforward; the Phantom is elaborate and manipulative.  Raoul is wealthy and titled; the Phantom is outcast from society.  Raoul apparently had a happy life; the Phantom has a tragic backstory.  (I could go on, but I’m tired of hitting the semicolon key.)  The contrast between these characters highlights the personality and behavior of each, adding depth and power to the story and giving Christine two distinct choices.  Which leads into Raoul’s last and most important role, which is–
  • Hero.  For Christine to be torn between the two men, her options have to be evenly balanced.  If Raoul was a jerk, she would have traded one problem for another, and the power of her compassion and sacrifice would be lost.  The Phantom is a sympathetic, complex character, but he is a dangerous antagonist.  Christine grows wiser and stronger throughout the story, but she’s not in a position to resist the Phantom alone.  She needs help—but not selfish help (or the issue of trading one problem &etc. still applies) and not passive help, someone driven by the story instead of driving it.  For Raoul to fulfill the role of hero, he has to behave like one.

So look at his actions: what does he do in the story?

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The audience hears of Raoul before we see him; and what we hear is that he’s a new patron of the opera, presumably wealthy, and will attend the performance that night.  The first action we see from him, however, is recognizing and applauding Christine—and if you’re wondering why it took three acts for the light bulb to shine, the playbills probably didn’t have her name on them.  She was cast at the last minute, and there wasn’t time to re-print everything.  (Although I guess the managers could have told him her name beforehand…)

Anyway, this aristocratic young man remembers the peasant girl he played with as a child and the stories they enjoyed.  I read some tumblr and blog posts saying the line “slave of fashion” meant that Raoul courted Christine because she was now a popular star—soliciting her favor was, basically, the fashionable thing to do.   But if that was his motive, why does he bring up such a humble topic when he meets her?  He doesn’t flirt or mention anything impressive about himself, or really even refer to her performance.  And since he has no qualms reminiscing aloud in the theatre box, his request to see Christine alone isn’t pride.  He would rather be remembered as the little boy who fetched her scarf than announced as the Vicomte de Chagny.

But he doesn’t just assume Christine will remember him as well.  It was smart to mention the red scarf, as this would trigger her memory and confirm who he was; but she did remember him, as evidenced by her line, “So it is you!”

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Of all things to discuss after they’ve grown up, and he’s titled, and she’s made a hit onstage, what does Raoul talk about?  Their childhood.  Their shared memories.  He seems to value their friendship more than anything else, a friendship he clearly wants to renew.  Christine, on her side, quickly informs Raoul about the Angel of Music, which says something for her level of trust in him.  But Raoul, being the straightforward, both-feet-on-the-ground type, takes this reference symbolically—his doing so actually compliments the beauty of her voice and simultaneously squashes the claim that he hates music (yeah, it’s out there).  I won’t mention specific portrayals often, as the point is Raoul’s scripted words and actions rather than an actor’s interpretation; but in the 2004 film, after Christine says, “I have been visited by the Angel of Music,” Patrick Wilson’s Raoul replies earnestly “Oh, no doubt of it!”

All that said, he should have asked her to supper rather than declaring they would go.  He should also have turned back when she called after him, and should have at least listened to her protests and respected them.  The man had a listening problem, and I won’t ignore or excuse that.  Perhaps, after the end of the musical, he looked back over the events and realized a lot of that could have been prevented.

I’ve often wondered what he did after finding Christine gone.  Since he’s determined to renew their friendship, he wouldn’t just think, “Whelp, she’s gone.  Might as well get some supper…like, on my own; thanks, Christine.”  No, he would get to the bottom of the matter and would probably ask patrons, performers, and the managers if they’d seen her.  I have a head canon that in his frantic search, he runs into a reporter wanting to interview the new star, which is how her disappearance got into the paper so quickly.

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Through the songs “Notes,” “Prima Donna,” “Il Muto,” and “Why Have You Brought Me Here?”, Raoul is confused and cranky at the goings-on—understandably, once you think about the situation—and his reasoning seems a little odd.  But what we have to remember is the knowledge Raoul has thus far, as well as his motives and the character he displays through the story as a whole.  These factors give clues about his reasoning during these four songs.

For starters, Raoul doesn’t have the information about the Phantom that the audience has.  Without that, the events of Act I are absolutely bizarre.  Think about it: Christine vanishes from a locked dressing room; then hours later, Raoul receives an unsigned note that is vague about Christine’s whereabouts, that asks him to assume she’s unharmed for no good reason, and that tells him to take a hike for no reason at all.  Imagine receiving a note that claims the Loch Ness Monster has your girlfriend safely in hand, so you can just mind your own business.  Irate doesn’t begin to describe the reaction, and no man in his right mind would leave matters at that.

But Raoul doesn’t have much to go on, since the message was so cryptic: “Do not fear for Miss Daae; the Angel of Music has her under his wing.  Make no attempt to see her again.”  The most he can deduce is that someone knows where Christine is and also objects to his interest in her.  He did not believe the Angel of Music was a literal person when Christine mentioned it, and he doesn’t believe it now.  The only conclusion he can draw is that the managers sent the note.

But why the managers?  Well, they had witnessed his request to see her alone, and they only—he thought—had the information to write “Make no attempt to see her again.”  Also, as management, Andre and Firmin would have been notified (ha!) whenever Christine was located since she was their employee.  With implication that the note-writer knows Christine’s whereabouts, Raoul assumes that the men most likely to have this recent information were responsible.

Raoul disapproves

His reasoning is logical, but wrong, thanks to missing information.  But after reading the other notes written in the same hand, making strange and bold demands with no authority to back them up, Raoul realizes that the writer not only has a fixation on Christine—but that this person is possibly mad.  And he knew of her disappearance, her return, and her job at the opera, indicating that he was sneaking around where he wasn’t supposed to be, or that Christine knew him personally.  Raoul seems to assume the latter: “Christine spoke of an angel…is this her angel of music?  Angel or madman?  Orders!  Warnings!  Lunatic demands!  Surely for her sake, I must see these demands are rejected!  Christine must be protected!”

During Il Muto (or the attempt), Raoul deliberately sits in Box Five.  He tells Andre and Firmin that there were no other seats available, but the lyrics read as though he used “no other seats available” as an excuse, especially as opera seats and boxes probably would have been booked long before the performance.  Chances are, he hoped to catch the perpetrator, thinking that rejected demands = the madman shows up to create the disaster = I catch him in Box Five and end the problem.

Except that the madman doesn’t appear in Box Five.  He complains about his usurped box, upstages Carlotta, and kills Buquet—which probably confirms in Raoul’s mind that Christine was in danger.

Hearing her call for help, Raoul rushes to her side, and they go to the roof.  But, oddly enough, she is convinced that a “Phantom of the Opera” killed Buquet, and will kill her, and will kill others.  This makes no sense to Raoul; he believes that Christine is indeed in danger, but not from any Phantom.  He is apparently acquainted with the Opera Ghost rumor, but he has no reason to believe it.  He never saw the events backstage; and being a recent patron, had probably not heard tales of falling scenery and such.  He really is the level-headed, both-feet-on-the-ground type, and refuses to believe anything without solid evidence.  In fact, he tries to convince Christine that “this Phantom is a fable!” and that he knows the events are not supernatural, but the workings of a madman.  “Believe me—there is no Phantom of the Opera!”

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Christine remains adamant, and Raoul tries to determine what on earth she’s talking about, and if, perhaps, she’s referring metaphorically to someone: “…Who is this man, this mask of death?  Whose is this voice you hear with every breath?  And in this labyrinth where night is blind, the Phantom of the Opera is there inside your mind.”  It makes no sense–that he can see–for her to be obsessed like this: she’s trusting, caring, and nostalgic, but not an idiot.  He can’t figure it out, but nonetheless tries to comfort her.

Christine has been his priority from the moment he reestablished their friendship.  And even though “All I Ask of You” is romantic duet, Raoul first speaks of her safety and peace of mind.  In fact, the entire first verse is pretty much Raoul focusing (again) on her welfare, only this time, he’s promising to personally protect her and asking her to accept this involvement.  Not only does he want to be her guardian, he also wants to be her hope and encouragement: he’s concerned about her peace of mind as well as her safety.

And he’s not focused on anything she can give him, nor is he filling a void in his own life.  He’s focused instead on what he can give her.  At the same time, his feelings come through clearly: he loves her, pure and simple, and he proves it by his actions through the rest of the musical.  It’s ironic that he says “My words will warm and calm you”—they do, but he goes far beyond mere talk.

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What’s interesting is that Raoul doesn’t propose or directly refer to a long-term relationship until Christine responds positively to his suit.  She’s the first to specify a long term-relationship with the phrases “every waking moment” and “now and always,” and when she says outright “and you, always beside me, to hold me and to hide me,” then Raoul proposes.  The commitment involves them both, but he leaves the acceptance up to her.  At the same time, he wants assurance that she loves him in return, that she truly desires him in her life—as her husband.

And on that note, let me say this: 19th century men were more knowledgeable about anything sexual than women were.  Raoul is also young and aristocratic—point being, he is surely aware of sexual feeling and desire.  But at the moment, his focus is on answering Christine’s needs and on their shared relationship rather than arousing her or arousing himself.  People call Erik the “adult” choice for his dark, passionate allure, and call Raoul “childish” for not touching or exciting any feelings of sexuality.  Newsflash: in the world God designed, sexuality is lawful, permissible, enjoyable—after marriage.  The fact that Raoul does not ooze sexuality nor awaken it in Christine before their marriage is a form of restraint that aligns with God’s plan for sexual behavior.

Also now is a good time to point out the obvious: “All I Ask of You” is duet, involving Raoul and Christine. They both love each other, they both need and want each other, they both commit, and they both sacrifice for each other: “Anywhere you go, let me go too.”  Raoul initiates and asks, but Christine encourages and accepts.  And with that, they pledge their love.

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Then Christine loses her fear and hurries back to the opera.  And I have to address an unnecessary accusation against Raoul: floating around on Pinterest are screencaps of Christine singing: “Say you love me” and Raoul’s response: “You know I do.”  And several pinner captions have posed the question: Did he actually say it?  The answer is yes.  For one thing, he has promised action that is the fruit of love, and he fulfills those promises later.  But he also says the words directly, calling after her, “Christine, I love you!”  This and a reprise of the chorus of “All I Ask of You” are Raoul’s last words in Act I.

And that is a good stopping place for what has turned into Part One of a dissertation about our Vicomte.  Stay tuned for Part Two!

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