The Phantom of the Opera (French: Le Fantôme de l’Opéra) is an incredible work based on the French novel by Gaston Leroux, which was originally published in 1909. Since then, many subsequent publications, dramas, TV series, and of course musicals have been released. The musical adaption of The Phantom of the Opera did not debut until 1976 (by Ken Hill). The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical adaption, which is the most popular and the one most are familiar with, debuted in 1986. Since that debut, thousands have enjoyed the phenomenon that has come to be known as simply “Phantom.” Fortunately for us fans, there have been DVD and Blu-ray releases of this work. This lets us enjoy all that is Phantom at any time. No need to wait until it comes to a theatre near you. Fortunately, there are two great versions available. One option is a full set based film. The other is a stage-based live performance. Which do you choose? Well of course both! But what if you can only have one? Hopefully the following will help you decide.
The Phantom of the Opera Film Version
This is the full set film version (2004) starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. For me, this is my favorite version and the first one I purchased. I love the full sets. The production is not limited to a single stage, so a richer story can be presented. I get what Paris and the opera house might have been like at the time of Phantom. I also love the acoustics. Maybe I am not using the right word here, but I like the way they recorded and processed the sound over the type of sound you often get in live performances. Most of all, I love Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. (Have I said love enough times yet?) In blogs and articles I have read, many might not feel that these two are the best Erik and Christine ever, but they are amazing for me, and after all, isn’t music the main reason we watch musicals?
- When Rossum sings “Think of Me,” I am captivated by her performance of the song and have not heard a version I like better. This is one of my favorite songs in part because she sings it so well, and this version scores a big thumbs up from me.
- Next there is my favorite Phantom song of all, “The Music of the Night.” Webber said that this is the most sensual song he has ever written. With Butler singing it, you didn’t need to tell me it is extremely sensual. His performance draws you in and the sensuality reaches levels that put it in a place by itself. In contrast, I have heard some of the best that have performed this role sing this same song, including Peter Jöback, John Owen-Jones, Anthony Warlow, and Colm Wilkinson. All were amazing; some had more powerful voices; maybe even better voices, but none of them brought the equivalent sensuality to the song. Another big thumbs up.
- Third is my other favorite Phantom song, “All I ask of You.” This was performed really well too. It did not evoke the same level of reaction as the other two songs, but those other two were epic and maybe this is only fantastic. Another thumbs up.
With the hat trick of my favorite songs, how can this version of Phantom not be my favorite?
The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Royal Albert Hall (Stage) Version
The 25th anniversary version of Phantom of the Opera performed at the Royal Albert Hall in front of a live audience is amazing. I am so glad they made this, because I can’t get enough of Phantom. For a fan like me, each version provides new insights about the music and story, which expands my Phantom-verse and makes me happy. I hope we don’t need to wait another 25 years for another version.
The sets in this version are elaborate and the production is extremely well done. Several camera angles are used to give you a fuller experience as if you were in the theater yourself. The story is slightly different between this and the film version. The differences are minor and don’t change the enjoyment of the production; in fact, they provide added insights into the story, which for fans is a huge plus. I like how they provide more details into situations than the film version. For example, the scene where Christine returns the ring to Erik portrays more clearly the difficult choice that Christine has and shows the bond between them.
- Ramin Karimloo stars as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine. They have great voices and do a really good job. Are they the best voices I have heard – probably not. Are they near the top? Probably. Do they provide some other appeal, such as the emotional connection experienced in the film version? No.
- The actors and audience are able to react to each other, which provides a more realistic feel. You get to see what excites the audience and see shots from around the room. Another nice thing is by the sets being simpler than in a film, some of the distractions of an elaborate set or removed and only the fundamental important items are on stage. This makes it easier to focus on what really matters. At the same time, the audio from a live performance differs from that of a film.
- As a bonus, you get performances by some of the greats that have been Erik or Christine in the past. Namely, Peter Jöback, John Owen-Jones, Anthony Warlow, and Colm Wilkinson are all on stage at the same time singing Phantom songs; it is fantastic. You also get shots of Andrew Lloyd Webber, which really adds to the enjoyment of the production.
Again, no my favorite version, but a must have for me. If you prefer live performances, this might be the version for you.
Both versions are excellent. You should own them both. If you must choose one, it comes down to the performers and the performance. Go to YouTube and play videos from both performances. If you have a strong preference for live or film productions, this will influence your decision. Regardless of your choice, you as a fan of The Phantom of the Opera will be happy.