The Barbican (studio)
18 March 2019 (released)
20 March 2019
Roy Budd, self-taught pianist and composer, best known for his score to Get Carter fell in love with the Phantom as a boy. Finally in 1993, he wrote the score for the silent movie, Phantom of the Opera (1925). Tragically it was never performed in his life-time as he had a brain haemorrhage the week before it was due to be premiered at the Barbican and the show was cancelled. But on Monday night the Barbian Hall was packed for the second ever performance of this irristibly passionate work, brought to life by the Docklands Sinfonia who played live alongside the iconic film. It was a magical evening.
The overture begins with the haunting organ line that is later taken up by the Phantom himself. And when the huge swell of the Dockland’s Sinfonia strings takes over, there is an imperceptible sigh from the audience, relaxing into the hands of a master. The score for the opening ballet sequence at the Opera follows, immaculate in it’s precise relationship to the dancers feet, interspersed with a comic touch from the harpsichord as Carlotta’s angry mother rails at the company manager for taking her daughter off the stage. It’s an extraordinary first ten minutes, revealing the Budd’s capacity to reach the heights of romantic drama before dropping lightly into comedy.
Most people know the story of the Phantom who hides in the bowels of the Paris Opera House, his deformed face hidden by a mask. He falls in love with Christine, a chorus girl and she is seduced by the beauty of his music. But it cannot last as he is a dangerous outsider and when Christine sees the face behind his mask, she is terrified… The tragedy is well known, but if you haven’t seen the original film before, you may be surprised by the level of comedy, which Budd’s score draws out almost imperceptibly. There’s an amazing scene where Raoul (Christine’s lover) skuttles down through the dungeons beneath the Opera House to find her, with strict instructions to keep his hand in the air in case a noose should fall down and hang him, ‘ the strangler’s noose comes quick!’ he’s told before being reprimanded (in silent movie style) when he forgets and drops his hand for a moment. You might also be surprised to know that the phantom was in fact called Erik.
‘If I am the phantom it is because man’s hatred has made me so’ he cries, despairing as the woman he loves cowers away from his ugliness. When he sits at the organ and plays in perfect synchronicity to Budd’s score, the now familiar motif returning, it’s painfully beautiful. It’s not hard to see why a musician like Roy Budd should have fallen in love with this story. It is music that brings the Phantom and Christine together and it is music that speaks of the Phantom’s sorrow. In fact almost the entire score speaks of the phantom’s yearning for love and beauty, neither of which he will ever have. It was a privilege to witness the coming together of an immaculate score that touches the heart of this iconic film.