“The Phantom of the Opera is my favorite opera,” is a phrase that many of my friends in the music department at my school throw around when jokingly imitating people who aren’t too familiar with either opera or musical theater. Fans tend to think of Phantom as an opera primarily because of the more classical technique used by singers, emphasizing high notes and long runs requiring a lot of flexibility (or the ability of the voice to move easily), which are elements not traditionally seen in popular musicals, such as Wicked and Rent. Although it may seem obvious to opera connoisseurs that Phantom is a musical (as it opened on Broadway, uses pop instruments, has spoken dialogue, and allows for a contemporary musical theater vocal technique), the structure of the musical itself is, indeed, very similar to that of an opera, though in a satiric way. I actually happened to see Phantom a couple of weeks ago at the Pantages in L.A. (which I highly recommend, if you have the chance to see it), so this entry will combine my observations with the insights of music scholars who have completed research on the work.
Love. It’s talked about everywhere: in the hallways, in novels, on TV, on Facebook, and on Instagram. But, little do people realize that love, especially that which is unrequited, has a deeply rooted history in all genres and time periods of music.
It began in France in the Middle Ages. Individuals who composed music (orally and aurally, of course, as people of this time period did not yet have the means to write music down graphically) commonly came up with the lyrics for the pieces they wrote. These poet-musicians were known as troubadours (in the case of Southern France) and trouvères (in the case of Northern France). Troubadours and trouvères infused the concept of fine amour, or courtly love, into the poetry of their compositions. Courtly love, as we think of it today, usually involves chivalry, or the idea of a knight in shining armor sweeping a princess off of her feet and lifting her up onto his horse only to ride off with her into the sunset. Yet, courtly love in this era had more to it than just manners and respect for women. Read More »