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The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera

By Andrew Lloyd Webber

Producers Opera Australia and The Really Useful Group

Directed by Laurence Connor

Photos by Daniel Boud

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House until October 16

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

the phantom of the opera

When you combine the staging abilities and resources of Opera Australia with the experience and know-how of producer Cameron Mackintosh and the genius of Andrew Lloyd Webber in possibly his finest work, and put it in one of the world's most iconic buildings with a full orchestra and a cast of 37, it's almost a given that you'll have a success.

Cameron Mackintosh’s most recent incarnation of The Phantom of the Opera has opened at the Sydney Opera House. It follows a record-breaking sell-out tour of the U.K. followed by a seven-year tour of the U.S. that grossed more than US$400 million, so this version has been well and truly tested.

the phantom of the opera sydney

The Phantom of the Opera is based on the 1910 Gaston Leroux novel that tells the story of Christine Daaé, a beautiful young soprano who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, masked musical genius living in a subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House. The setting for a story of murder, music and romance in a Parisian theatre in the late 1900s is compelling.

They have assembled a solid cast, but the only person I know is David Whitney who plays Monsieur Firmin. Most of the other cast members are comparatively young yet they’re very experienced and possess impressive talents.

the phantom of the opera Sydney Opera House

Gone are the days in which opera singers just stood there woodenly and sang. Even to make the cut now they have to be triple threats.

In the lead role of Christine Daaé, the powerful vocals of Amy Manford soar skywards through the distinctive sails of the Sydney Opera House. Just when you think that she’s hit her peak, she finds another level, and we can feel every emotion.

Josh Piterman is The Phantom himself and proves beyond doubt that it’s possible to successfully cross over from musical theatre to classical opera and back.

The other love interest is Raoul, ably performed by Blake Bowden.

The stage presence of Jayde Westaby as Madame Giry is strangely reminiscent of Mrs Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca.

From a personal perspective, it’s gratifying to see two performers of Asian heritage cast in non-racially-specific roles. Unfortunately, Joseph Buquet (Raphael Wong) ends up joining the choir invisible.

Scott Ambler was charged with choreographing the six ballet dancers and other performers. It’s like an Australian Ballet bit within an opera. The late Paul Brown’s set design is superb. The effortless scene changes around the revolve seamlessly take us from the theatre stage to descending the spiral stairs to the dungeon. Flies and hinged flats are also used to facilitate some of the scene changes.

The phantom of the opera

Of course, the other focal point of the production is “the chandelier” that menacingly hangs high above the front stalls. Even though its presence is expected, it still elicits gasps from the audience. The chandelier is the equivalent of “the helicopter” in Miss Saigon. The difference is that The Phantom of the Opera has music that you can remember immediately after you walk out of the theatre.

The Phantom of the Opera, which premiered in London’s West End in 1986, is constantly being reinvented, such as the outdoor version earlier this year. This latest one at the Sydney Opera House well and truly lives up to the hype. If you haven’t seen a production of it, it’s definitely worth catching, and if you haven’t seen it in a while, you’ll be pleased with this latest interpretation.


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