The Phantom of the Opera – where does destruction spring from?


Before proceeding to The Phantom of the Opera itself, one should briefly discuss the background of the musical and the fact that its premiere in the Vanemuine theatre is a major event in its own right.

On the one hand, The Phantom of the Opera – probably the most popular musical in the world – has been in the repertoire of Her Majesty’s Theatre in London for 28 years in a row and has been played eight times a week for the last 25 years at the Majestic Theatre in New York; so far, more than 130 million people have been to see it and it has won more than 70 of the most important theatre awards; the ticket revenue of The Phantom of the Opera exceeds that of any other production or film, outdoing both Titanic as well as Star Wars.

On the other hand, one must say that although The Phantom of the Opera has by now been translated into 14 languages and has been staged in 30 countries, the performance staged at the Vanemuine is only the fourth stage version of the musical that premiered in the United Kingdom in 1986.And although the authors do give the director a whole number of specific restrictions – for example the key, the sequence of scenes or plot lines are not to be amended – the production must not be a copy of the original either.

And let us not forget that it is quite difficult to acquire production rights to any of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals and the fact that the Vanemuine did, indeed, succeed, is remarkable in its own right.

As the plot of the musical is probably familiar to everyone (and if not, it can be looked up quite easily on the internet), I will, instead, concentrate on Georg Malvius’s vision of the story and its heroes.

Perhaps the Phantom himself offers the greatest variety in terms of character interpretation.There may be several reasons underlying his behaviour and motivating his actions – obsessed love towards a young, talented songstress; the desire to seek revenge for people’s evil and the callousness that fell upon him as a child.

Or he may be a sensitive creator on the verge of madness who has not been understood in his desire to be acknowledged as a composer.There are as many possible reasons as there are interesting facets in the nature of the Phantom worth delving into.

In the production in question Georg Malvius has emphasized the psychological development of the Phantom (Stephen Hansen).While at the beginning one may have an inkling of the warm feelings of a rather affectionate young man who has had his share of heartbreak towards a young and beautiful woman called Christine (Hanna-Liisa Võsa), then after his offer of love has been rejected, the Phantom increasingly lets his evil side come to the surface and expresses his desire to seek revenge.

Both for rejected love as well as for the fact that he was showcased in public in a cage because of his scarred face.And indeed, it seems that he comes forward with his opera not so much to have it staged, but rather as an aspiration to get back at people for their indifference and arrogance, as if saying that now you are staging the opera by the boy with a monstrous face whom you carelessly despised for his appearance your whole life.

The Phantom played by Stephen Hansen seems, indeed, to be the story of the falling apart of an unhappy person blinded by revenge.He has created the forceful and expressive role of a man who is convinced of the injustice done to him and has decided to avenge himself.

As an interesting aspect we see in his character building how love weakens hatred, but instead of forgiving people and returning to normal life, the Phantom still lets the ever-increasing hatred destroy him little by little.This story of being destroyed is played by Stephen Hansen with surprising depth and persuasiveness.And not only using his acting skills – the ever-breaking vocal also expresses the ruin of the Phantom in its unique way.

When comparing Hanna-Liina Võsa’s character to the Christine in the film The Phantom of the Opera released in 2004, one could say that the young and beautiful songstress depicted by Emmy Rossum is more mystical, has greater depth and is more intriguing.

Hanna-Liina Võsa’s Christine, however, is sedate and perhaps psychologically a bit more simplistic.In this regard it would be interesting to see how the member of the second cast, Maria Listra, plays the part of Christine – whether her Christine, having lost her father at a relatively young age, shows more depth due to hardships experienced or not.

Comparing Hanna-Liina Võsa and Pirjo Püvi, who played the role of Carlotta, it seems that maybe the overall outcome would have been slightly better if the roles had been reversed. I do not want to imply that Hanna-Liina Võsa’s role was bad in itself – not at all. Just as there are different types of people, there are different types of actors who, with their inherent qualities, give the role played a certain essence or another.

Raoul (Koit Toome) probably would have been more vigorous if his opposite or partner Christine had shown more sharpness and natural depth.

Naturally, Raoul cannot be as powerful and mystical in his personality as the Phantom, but even so, he does not seem to be a man a woman would be, by all means, willing to escape with.

The duet by Koit Toome and Hanna-Liina Võsa remains emotionally trifling, as there is no passion even in the fiery love scenes at the end of second act. Hence their love remains founded as if on external resources, not to say as if in pretence.

On the other hand – Raoul and Christine’s tepid love becomes more interesting when the Phantom comes into play. Only then do we see and feel that Raoul is, indeed, interested in Christine and that the tension between these three characters reaches even the rows at the back of the theatre hall. It is, indeed, Stephen Hansen who makes the stage come to life and who absorbs the somewhat plainer characters forcefully into play.