Alexandra Berardelli ‘25
A single rose and a mask have captivated audiences across the globe with the “angel of music.” But, after a record-breaking 35-year run on Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera finally closed its curtains for the last time on Sunday, April 16, 2023. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s illustrious musical has indeed impacted theater everywhere, but it is merely a musical sensation: it’s a cultural phenomenon. So while it’s been an extraordinary achievement of our time, “help me say goodbye” to the core of W 44th street in New York City.
You might know the story of a man in a half-mask. Or, it’s the crashing chandelier. Regardless of what brings you here, The Phantom of the Opera recounts a Phantom, a musical mastermind of a Parisian opera house. Unfortunately for him, society has ostracized the Phantom because of his physical deformity. Still, he musically inspires Miss Christine Daaé, a young woman in his opera house. Under his guidance, she gains the success she deserves. The Phantom falls deeply in love with Christine but eventually becomes jealous of her s young and very handsome suitor, Raoul. Due to his raging jealousy, he fills the opera house with all types of terror and danger, yet he has a generous soul.
Theater is supposed to be a form of art we feel deep within our souls. As a serious theater-goer, I understand this feeling when leaving a live show: flooding city streets with a beaming smile to engage in non-stop discussion with new favorite tunes playing in the background. If you could even imagine, the angel of music breathed into my soul and told the timeless story of the Phantom and Miss Daaé. I’ve never experienced something quite like this before. While leaving the iconic Majestic Theatre, I felt I had understood and felt 35+ years of Phantom‘s life in New York. It is truly a classic. And it’s the type of show humanity needs because it’s the type of show humanity can understand. Not only is the music absolutely phenomenal, but the story tells one of acceptance, betrayal, and love. It’s something we need on our stage to speak to us as an engaged audience.
Even without the financial troubles, it seemed as if Phantom was destined to close sooner than later. Times are changing, and its audience is too by arguably losing interest in this story and music. Of course, all good things must come to an end. And Phantom has its due tenure on Broadway. Still, its closure sparks some personal concern for what we look for in art. For me, art is a window into human nature as an individual and collective experience. We do not live to our fullest capacity without some tangible manifestation of humanity, like this musical. And so, something like Phantom truly has made a home for itself to teach us more about ourselves. In terms of other musicals of its time, it is not even comparable to some other shows currently running on Broadway. So, it’s sad that today’s youth will not experience this unique piece of art. I hope that artists and audiences will be willing to write their experiences and values into tomorrow’s next musicals and plays.
Right now, “we’re past the point of no return.” Even though my younger self would rather not sit through what I thought was a boring opera, she would be quite proud of the mature art we now cherish. I know I’m not the only one as thousands of people send their regards to New York as the show closes to the extent that the last public performance ended with the “Phandom” flooding the theater to see the iconic chandelier repositioned one last time. To The Phantom of the Opera: “Say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime.” Thank you.
Photo courtesy of The Phantom of the Opera
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