The Culture of Adolescence
No later adaptation of Le Fantôme de l’Opéra was nearly as popular as the Universal films until the British musical drama by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, and Richard Stilgoe. Granted, there are some culturally revealing features (which I will soon discuss) in the most notable adaptations between the 1943 remake and the Lloyd Webber version: the 1962 British film from Hammer Studios, the 1974 rock-musical movie Phantom of the Paradise, the English stage Phantom of the Opera by Ken Hill first produced in 1976, and the 1983 television film broadcast by CBS with Maximilian Schell in the title role and Jane Seymour as the Christine-figure (see Perry, 60–63). Yet, while these all found audiences, however limited, none of them drew the vast and continuous middle-class response that the Lloyd Webber musical has enjoyed since its London opening on October 9, 1986, and its New York premiere (with the original British stars) on January 26, 1988 (Walsh, 180; Perry, 81). There are several obvious reasons why this adaptation has “struck a chord” to such a degree. In a stage revival of the dazzling spectacle in the 1925 and 1943 versions—no more than half-attempted in the intervening productions—the musical offers its increasingly broad-based audiences, somewhat as Universal did, a sort of “ticket backstage” to the splendors of high-culture opera (at appropriately high ticket prices) without being so operatic as to alienate the many who aspire to that level socioeconomically but find real opera too slow and remote. Indeed, as in the 1943 film, this musical’s segments of “opera” are entirely new and fake ones devised by the composer of the score, this time without fully operatic features or direct echoes of well-known figures, yet with attributions to such nonexistent but opera-sounding names as “Chalumeau” and “Albrizzio” (see the libretto in Perry, 141, 151.
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