Blog Hop: Holiday Reviews

book blogger hopThis week’s Book Blogger Hop question: Do you ever do a review post based on a holiday? For example review Christmas theme books in December.

Frequently!  Although it often turns into movie reviews for holidays–somehow I tend to tie my holidays to movies more than to books.  I usually try to do something Christmas-related for December, I posted about Mr. Smith Goes to Washington for the 4th of July, and I reviewed Jesus Christ Superstar on Good Friday.  Although I did miss Guy Fawkes Day for V for Vendetta.

Among my more unusual holiday posts was reviewing Casablanca on Pearl Harbor Day, and the time I shared an old Star Trek fanfiction piece about a very unfortunate redshirt for Friday the 13th.

Bloggers, do you do holiday-themed reviews?  Readers, do you like to read holiday books close to their related day?

Movie Review: The (Gerard Butler) Phantom of the Opera

Phantom 9I finally watched the Gerard Butler Phantom.  I say “finally” because I haven’t seen it in…at least eight years.  I know this, because I know I haven’t seen it since the first time I saw the stage production.  Since the last time I watched this movie, I’ve watched just about every version of Phantom I could find, including the stage production…eight times, actually!

If you’re not familiar with it, the Butler Phantom is a movie version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical–but very much not the play (for that you want the 25th anniversary/Karimloo Phantom).  I liked this movie when it came out–but I was seventeen and I’d never seen the play.  And ever since I saw the play, I’ve been afraid to go back to the movie…  But I finally did, because I’m writing a retelling and this is research.  And the movie was…not as bad as I feared.  But it’s SO not the play.  Although!  I have a theory that addresses all the movie’s issues, so keep reading for that. 🙂 Continue reading “Movie Review: The (Gerard Butler) Phantom of the Opera”

Saturday Snapshot: Here I Have a Note…

I’ve mentioned once or twice (or thereabouts!) that I’m a fan of The Phantom of the Opera.  I may have also mentioned that I’m a member of the Michael Crawford International Fan Association.  Mr. Crawford, of course, was the original Phantom in London and Broadway.  The MCIFA had a special sale recently of memorabilia…and I bought the most splendid of souvenirs!

Phantom's Letters (3)This is a prop letter from the Phantom to Carlotta, actually used in the Webber production, and signed by Michael Crawford and Leigh Munro, who played Carlotta.  I couldn’t resist a signed letter…or a matching set of Andre’s and Firmin’s notes!

Phantom's Letters (1)Phantom's Letters (2)The Phantom’s letters feel far more personal than almost any other souvenir…and they’re particularly meaningful to me, because of one of my favorite moments in the play.  During the song “Prima Donna,” seven characters run about the stage, mostly waving letters and trying to placate Carlotta.  One of those characters is Meg Giry.  While others sing at the front of the stage, often (not in every production, but often) Meg slips to the back of the stage to examine all the Phantom’s letters.

It’s a tiny moment that probably 99% of the audience never notices.  I always watch for it, and it helped inspire my belief that Meg has a very special interest in the Phantom…and have I mentioned that I’m writing a novel from her point of view?

Visit West Metro Mommy for more Saturday Snapshots, and have a wonderful weekend!

Entangled on Sunset Boulevard

I’ve been meaning to rewatch Sunset Boulevard for literally years.  What with watching The Emperor’s New Groove recently (I’m convinced Yzma is based on Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard) and the beginning of Readers Imbibing Peril, now seemed like the time!

You see, Sunset Boulevard is very possibly the creepiest movie I’ve ever seen.  Not the scariest, not the most horrifying, but the creepiest–with all the old subtlety and art of the 1940s classics.  It’s not Hitchcock, but it feels like it could have been.

The movie opens with the main character, Joe (William Holden), floating dead in a swimming pool.  And that’s not the creepy part!  We immediately flash back in time, with Joe as the voice-over narrator.  We learn about his life as a struggling Hollywood writer, dreaming of success but unable to make his car payments.  By chance and circumstance, he meets Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), star of the silent film era–and she has never forgotten it.  She’s obsessed with her own stardom, and adamantly refuses to believe that her time has passed.  She lives in an insanely-over-the-top mausoleum of a mansion, alone except for her butler, Max, who is equally unbalanced.  Norma draws Joe into her web, and try as he might, he cannot find his way out again…

To quote The Emperor’s New Groove, Norma is pretty much “scary beyond all reason.”  Unlike Yzma, she’s not actually an unattractive woman–but she has these crazy eyes and dramatic hand movements and wildly creepy smile.  And she is SO emotional and SO desperately clinging to her past–and, as the movie goes on, to Joe.  It would be easy to write off Norma as simply insane, but the movie gives us little moments of sympathy and insight for her.  It’s not a movie about a madwoman–it’s a movie about a woman driven mad by fame, and the need to always be the perfect star she was on the screen.

At one point Joe’s narration remarks, “You know, a dozen press agents working overtime can do terrible things to the human spirit.”  I don’t think he means that negative press destroyed Norma.  I think he means the positive press.  The legend, the star persona, simply became overwhelming.  It’s a message that’s still immensely relevant; glance at the entertainment magazines some time for star after star self-destructing in magnificent ways.

Even though he narrates, I have less to say about Joe’s character.  He strikes me as essentially an Everyman, one with enough insight to tell us about the far more complicated Norma.  He does have his own story about failing to achieve Hollywood success, but I feel like the movie is really less about him than it is about how he gets caught by Norma.

I mentioned the subtlety of old movies–and the creepiness of this one.  There are some, shall we say, less subtle creepy elements.  Near the beginning, Norma is holding a funeral for her pet monkey, and Max the butler occasionally bangs away on an old pipe organ.  However, I found that what really gives the movie its creepiness is the more subtle things.  It’s Norma’s crazy eyes, or her huge empty house, overflowing with pictures of herself.

One of my favorite moments is so tiny and so quick that if you blink, you could miss it.  At one point, Joe tries to leave Norma’s house and escape back into the larger world.  As he goes out the front door, his watch chain catches on the handle, and he has to stop to untangle it.  And sure enough, Norma draws him back again…

I mentioned that the movie opens with Joe floating dead in a pool, which certainly seems like the most spoilerific of openings.  And yet, even though I know that’s how this ends–even when I’ve seen the movie before–somehow it draws me in so much moment by moment that I can’t really remember that that’s where it must be going.  I know it intellectually, but I can’t feel it.

Believe it or not, Andrew Lloyd Webber made a musical version of Sunset Boulevard (but then, I don’t know how anyone would read Leroux’s Phantom and think of doing a musical).  I’m desperately curious, mostly because of the song “As If We Never Said Goodbye.”  It makes me suspect there’s an even more sympathetic portrayal of Norma, and I really wonder how it’s handled–but alas, no filmed version, and I don’t know of anywhere it’s playing…

Until I can track down the musical, I’ll just have to recommend the movie to you–for all its subtle underplays and clever creepiness.  Norma, in her own cracked way, insists a few times that dialogue was unnecessary in the silent films because they expressed everything with their faces.  The funny thing is, she’s kind of right–most of this movie is expressed in the eyes.  Though there are some wonderful lines of dialogue too.  For instance, when Joe remarks that she used to be big, she fires back, “I AM big.  It’s the pictures that got small.”

Then, of course, there’s the famous last line…  “All right, Mr. DeMille–I’m ready for my close-up.”  And oh, how wonderfully terrifying it is, as she looks deep into the eyes of “those wonderful people out there in the dark.”

Other reviews:
The Ace Black Blog
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Blogcritics
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Buy it here: Sunset Boulevard

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Leroux PhantomI think we all know I have kind of a thing about the Phantom of the Opera…  I recently did a reread of Gaston Leroux’s original novel–and since I can never keep straight what was in Leroux compared to other versions, even the third time through felt in some ways like a new experience.

The basic story is the same across most versions, and Leroux set the original pattern.  A masked man with a genius for music lives under the Paris Opera House.  In the guise of the Angel of Music, he trains Christine Daae in singing.  When Christine falls for Raoul, the handsome Viscomte de Chagny, the Phantom wreaks havoc in his jealousy.

Leroux was originally in French, so if you’re reading a translation I highly recommend Leonard Wolf’s.  Really, I can’t stress this enough–I’ve read two versions, both “unabridged,” and Wolf’s somehow has significantly more detail and better writing.

It’s always been the characters that really fascinate me in any version of Phantom–and mostly it’s Erik, the Phantom, himself.  Retellings in the last century have been on a nearly-consistent quest to make the Phantom a more sympathetic, romantic figure.  In the original, however, he’s a complete raving madman.  Truly, the man is unhinged.  He has a violent temper and (probably) kills at least three people over the course of the book.  I say “probably” because he denies it himself and we don’t actually see those moments, but I think his denial is a symptom of insanity, not innocence.

There’s nothing romantic about Leroux’s Phantom.  However, he does garner a certain amount of sympathy–or perhaps I should say pity.  I began feeling more sad for him when the Persian (a mysterious figure rarely appearing in films) took over the narration.  That’s not because the Persian portrayed Erik sympathetically, but just the opposite.  He’s the closest thing the Phantom has to a friend, and even the Persian still routinely refers to him as “the monster.”  We also learn from the Perisan that Erik really believed Christine loved him; the Persian himself doesn’t believe it…because Erik is so ugly.  Not because he’s a raving madman with violent tendencies–but because he’s so ugly.  There’s something wrong in that.

The final scene, in which Erik tells the Persian about how he parted from Christine, is absolutely wrenching.  And how can you not feel sad for a man whose mother always refused to kiss him?  Susan Kay does wonderful, devastating things with the idea, but it’s there in Leroux too.

The Phantom as a violent madman casts Christine in a different light too.  I’m not a Christine fan as a rule.  Often she’s an idiot or decidedly callous.  However, it occured to me rereading Leroux that Christine and the Phantom are sympathetic in inverse relation to each other.  The more rational and likable the Phantom is, the more blameworthy Christine seems for any lies and betrayals, and for ultimately choosing Raoul.  The more villainous the Phantom is, the more justifiable Christine’s actions are.  In Leroux, she’s still an idiot at times, but is pretty much justifiable too.

As for Leroux’s Raoul–I have to say I find it downright amusing how frequently he weeps, faints, raves or goes into a sulk.  I understand what Christine doesn’t see in Leroux’s Erik, but I don’t know what she sees in Leroux’s Raoul (his bank account, possibly…)

So much for characters.  The other aspect that struck me most in the novel was the structure.  So much of the story happens “off-screen.”  Many of the most iconic moments, including Christine ripping off the Phantom’s mask and their final parting, are only conveyed in conversations after the fact.  They’re almost detailed enough to be flashbacks–but aren’t really.

We get a lot of Raoul wandering about and wondering what’s going on with Christine.  We get very little of the Phantom actually present in the story.  I think Leroux is one of these classic writers who didn’t really know what he had created–or didn’t know quite what to do with it.  Nearly everyone retelling it has realized that the most interesting one in the story is the Phantom, and has been skewing the story his direction ever since.  Leroux…not so much.

Riding solely on its own merits, I have to say that I don’t think Leroux’s Phantom is all that great of a book.  It pains me to say it.  And I don’t think it’s a terrible book!  But it’s middling at best.  It’s far more interesting from a historical perspective, from the angle of “oh, that’s how Webber changed this” or “I love how Susan Kay took this one line and wrote six chapters from it.”  For me, at the end of the day, I far prefer Webber’s and Susan Kay’s versions.  But it is fascinating to see where they came from.

Other reviews:
ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
The Book Mine Set
In Which I Read Vintage Novels
Anyone else?

Buy it here: The Phantom of the Opera

Phantom at Her Majesty’s Theatre

Last week I did a theatre review of Les Miserables in London.  This week, I’m sharing about my trip to see Phantom of the Opera.

Seeing Phantom for me is different than seeing any other play, because I’ve seen it so many times.  I never just watch; I analyze and compare.  I’m convinced that this is really the strength of live theatre, because I swear it’s a different play every time.  I admit this may in part be me reading into things…but since I always look for the same interpretation (because I have my own ideas for the characters), if it was all in my head, it wouldn’t come out different every time!

Counting the filmed 25th anniversary performance, I’ve seen seven performances by six different Phantoms, and I’ve yet to be bored.  I saw the play for the first time on my previous trip to London, and that’s still the best performance I ever saw (though I admit the new-ness may have been a factor).  With that in mind, I was excited to see it in London again.  And it turned out to be one of the more complex and unique performances I’ve seen–which makes this review half an exploration of different interpretations of the play.

I assume everyone roughly knows the plot: the Phantom is a musical genius living below the Paris Opera House, hiding a facial deformity behind a mask.  He falls in love with soprano Christine Daae, and clashes with the management of the Opera and Christine’s childhood sweetheart, Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny.  The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is one of the best-known versions of the story–and the musical is wonderful.

I got to the theatre early, as I always do.  My seat wasn’t as good as I had for Les Mis, but it’s another small theatre, so even though I was back pretty far, that was still only the twelfth row.  Although I did spend an inordinate amount of pre-show time wondering if the overhanging balcony would block my view of the Phantom on the rooftop (it didn’t, at least not badly).  This is what comes of seeing a play seven times–you think about these things.

The Phantom was played by Marcus Lovett, and it struck me as a very different performance.  First, his voice didn’t sound like other Phantoms I’ve heard.  I’m not musical enough to know the proper terms to describe it–good singing, certainly, but sort of deeper and broader somehow, with an element of thunder.  It made me wonder in the early scenes how he was going to handle “Music of the Night,” which absolutely must be sung intimately.  For me, Phantom performances live and die by that song.

Lovett ended up carrying the song fine–but it was different.  This was the first time I’ve seen a Webber Phantom who didn’t really seem to be in love with Christine.  The crazy thing is, the interpretation seemed to work (mostly).  I’ve always thought the Phantom was making a mistake falling in love with Christine, but I’ve also always believed that he deeply, passionately loved her.  This one didn’t seem to.  His real interest was the music.  It was the first time I believed a Webber Phantom when he said he had brought Christine below the Opera House to sing.

When you jump from that idea, “Music of the Night” isn’t a seduction at all, it’s a celebration of the music.  It’s all about, come see the night and experience my music.  Of course, some lines like “only then can you belong to me” are pretty unambiguous, but it still felt like that was his secondary, possibly long-range idea.  All he really wanted was for her to be a part of his music, and I don’t think he’d object if it became something else…but that’s not the primary goal.  After all, the last line of the song is not “I love you,” it’s “Help me make the music of the night.”  Which can obviously be metaphorical…but in this performance, it felt literal.

That interpretation kept working for the rest of Act One.  In the morning, after “Music of the Night,” the Phantom’s not mooning over Christine, he’s having a perfectly delightful time writing his music.  After she yanks the mask off, he has a meltdown and then starts singing about his longings–for heaven and for beauty.  It never actually specifies how she fits into that picture.  There is the one line, “fear can turn to love,” but it almost feels like an add-on.  The entire sequence with his disruption of “Il Muto” is all about making the performance of the music better.  On the rooftop, does the Phantom feel betrayed because Christine and Raoul kissed, or because she said nasty things about his face and is planning to run away and not sing anymore?  The ultimate line about the Phantom’s betrayal is not “I gave you my heart,” it’s “I gave you my music.”

So obviously I was having a wonderful time watching all of this–and analyzing.  But then the interpretation falters a bit in Act Two.  I started to lose the thread of the Phantom’s motivations.  The more I think about it, mostly it should work–he’s still focused on Christine’s singing at the Masquerade, and on being the Angel of Music at the graveyard.  It wasn’t coming across as clearly, though, and then I don’t know at all what to do with “Point of No Return,” most especially the Phantom’s “All I Ask of You” reprise, or parts of the finale.  Which are all kind of important.  I still think it’s an interpretation with value, though–because it works for so much of the play.

Christine had similar across-act issues at the performance I saw.  I swear, in Act One she was a schemer.  Disclosure: I want Christine to be a schemer.  She’s that or an idiot, and I like the idea that she’s plotting.  But I don’t think it was all in my head either.  She was a little too gleeful yanking the Phantom’s mask off, and she was definitely playing Raoul on the rooftop.  The lines are there, and the way they were being delivered–I was convinced she was manipulating him.  (I’ve always thought that “order your fine horses” is not an appropriate response to “Christine, I love you” in that scene).

But then we came back from the interval, and Christine spent all of Act Two terrified, and I just didn’t know how reconcile that.  Christine can absolutely be weaving plots in Act Two (a secret engagement?  really?), but this Christine just seemed too frightened.  There was a very strange moment in “Point of No Return” when Christine and the Phantom are struggling, and I honestly couldn’t tell who was trying to get away from whom.  I know that seems like it should be obvious, but with Act One’s portrayal of the characters, it really wasn’t.

So I found the characters brilliantly different in Act One, but then mostly reverted to something more standard in Act Two.  That was a bit disappointing, though it was still very effective portrayals as the play went on.  Just a little inconsistent.

On to other characters…my favorite, after the Phantom, is Meg Giry.  I make a habit of watching her during production numbers.  This was the most social Meg I can remember seeing.  She was talking to people in the background of several scenes, like the opening sequence, or “Masquerade.”  I really wanted to know what she was saying!  Unfortunately, my lip-reading is not that good.  An odd moment in the “Finale”…she did come across as smarter than Raoul, but they dropped the line when she tries to go with them below (and I love that line!  It’s important!)

Raoul made almost no impression on me, I think because I was so distracted by Christine and the Phantom.  There was an unusually angry Raoul in the recent 25th anniversary performance, and I wondered if that was a new standard in London, but it doesn’t seem to be.

The managers had good comedic timing, as did Piangi and Carlotta.  Piangi was obviously wearing padding and Carlotta wasn’t old enough, but their acting was good.  And Piangi struggled mightily to get on his elephant in the opening scene, which is always my favorite moment for him.

The music is always wonderful, the singing and the orchestrations, and the costumes are splendid and elaborate.  Don’t watch the chandelier rise at the beginning because you’ll be blinded–and it always falls with wonderful drama at the end of Act One.  If you’re in London or anywhere else where Phantom is playing, I highly recommend it–as I suspect will come as no surprise to anyone!  I know I had a wonderful time watching Phantom for the seventh time.

Reading Phantom in Paris

When I went to Paris in September, I decided it was a good opportunity to finally reread Susan Kay’s Phantom.  I read it once seven years ago, it completely blew me away, and it made such an impression that I always felt like it was too soon to reread–it was still there in my mind.  And I think I was afraid that I couldn’t repeat the experience twice!

But I brought it along to Paris to read again–and it was amazing.  I’m also counting it for the R. I. P. Challenge.  I reviewed Susan Kay’s Phantom once already, but I think it’s worth doing it again.  This review is basically going to be structured as a summary, a lot of gushing, and then circle back to Paris to talk about visiting the Opera House.  You’ve been warned if you want to skip some of the gushing!

My copy of the book doesn’t have a sub-title, but I’ve also seen this called Phantom: The Story of His Life, and that’s really what it is.  The story begins with the Phantom’s mother, goes on through his entire life and on past his death.  Kay brilliantly grounds us in each period, telling the story in sections with different first-person narrators.

First there’s Erik’s mother, Madeleine, telling her own story and taking us through his very troubled childhood.  Erik takes over the narration when he runs away from home at nine, falling in with a band of gypsies.  Later we see him as a teenager in Rome; this section is told by Signor Giovanni, the master architect who saw a spark of genius in this strange masked boy, and took him under his wing–for a time.  The Daroga tells us about Erik’s time in Persia, and a very sad and bloody time it is.  Erik picks up the thread again when he returns to France, meets Charles Garnier, and becomes obsessed with work on the building of the new Paris Opera House–which he ultimately decides will be his escape from the world.  And then Christine comes on the scene, and she and Erik tell the most familiar part of the story in alternating scenes, until the final section is narrated by–but perhaps I won’t give that away!

Kay does something truly masterful here.  Every narrator has his or her own story, with their own passions and tragedies, while at the same time the book never loses its focus on Erik.  It’s a brilliant balance that gives us the Phantom through so many eyes, and tells so many stories, without feeling fragmented or like we ever get lost on some side-plot. Every character is brought to life and I care deeply about all of them–even Madeleine.  I hate her, so caring might not be quite the right word, but I do feel deeply about her.  Although on a second read, I felt more sorry for her than I did the first time around.

The most significant character, of course, is the Phantom.  As on my first read, I fluctuate between finding him scary, and wanting to hug him.  He is so dark, and so unstable, and SO SAD.  And brilliant–completely, unbelievably brilliant.  Unlike other books I could name, Kay doesn’t pin all of Erik’s problems on the facial deformity.  That’s a huge part of the book, of course, but there’s so much more.  Erik is rarely shown kindness, so he doesn’t trust it when he sees it.  His biggest problem is not that he’s so ugly no one could love him; it’s that he believes he’s so ugly no one could love him.  It’s a fantastic, vital distinction that makes him so much more complex.  And something that’s not going to be solved by a moonless night.

The scope of the book is magnificent.  Without feeling long, it still feels like it crosses continents and covers decades.  When an adult Erik remembers his childhood dog, I don’t feel like I just read about her a hundred pages ago–it was years in the past!  Despite the huge scope, it doesn’t feel like an overview.  Everything is immediate and present as it happens.

There are so many very small, very wonderfully told moments.  The first to come to mind is Erik’s fifth birthday, when his mother insists that he tell her what he wants, and all he really wants is a kiss (one now, and one to save for later) and…it doesn’t end well.  And I hate Madeleine.  There are some nice moments of friendship with the Daroga, and later with Charles Garnier, the Opera House’s architect.  There’s a very funny exchange when Erik makes a joke to Garnier about how the then-under-construction Opera House really ought to have a ghost, and perhaps they should advertise.  Services of one ghost needed, tenor voice preferred.

And then near the end–just before everything goes horribly, horribly awry with Christine–Erik goes up to the roof of the Opera to pray.  And he doesn’t know how, because he hasn’t since he was a little boy, and the only prayer he can come up with is Please God, let her love me, and I’ll be good forever.  It just makes me want to cry and cry.

The book is so beautiful, emotional, moving–and so deeply tragic.  Phantom descends to the depths and aspires to the heights of human emotion, and does it beautifully and believably.  In 500-odd pages of dealing with that level of complexity, I felt like Kay hit a false note only once.  There’s a near-miss, where Erik might have been able to have a better relationship with his mother and the opportunity is lost; that was the only moment that didn’t feel real.  I didn’t believe Madeleine could make the leap, and it felt dragged in for tragedy’s sake.  However, I make that observation mostly to say how amazing the rest of the book is–because every other moment I completely believed and was swept along with.

It may also be worth saying that I’m completely invested in my own concept of the Phantom, who he is and how his life post-Leroux (if he wasn’t dead) ought to turn out–and this isn’t that at all.  But it’s so good, that doesn’t even bother me.

If I haven’t been clear enough yet, Susan Kay’s Phantom is easily among my top five favorite books I have ever read.  Maybe my absolute favorite.  I wouldn’t recommend reading this without either reading Leroux or knowing the Webber musical; there is an assumption of some knowledge, particularly once Christine comes in.  But if you have a little grounding and you’re intrigued by the Phantom–read this.  It’s mind-blowing.

Well, now that I’ve gushed plenty, let’s talk about Paris.  This is also a great book to read if you’re visiting the city, particularly the Opera House.  Most of it is actually not in Paris, but key sections are.  When I visited the Opera House, the guide was telling us about the history and I kept thinking, “I know, that was in Susan Kay’s Phantom!”  The book is set at the same time they were redesigning Paris, so it talks about the broad boulevards and the large-scale apartments, and they’re what you’re seeing as you walk around the city.  It gave me a nice grounding, and of course, it populated the Opera House for me.  There’s a monument to Charles Garnier near the visitors’ entrance, but Susan Kay’s Phantom brought him to life for me.  And it made me happy that, even though we call it the Paris Opera House here, in Paris it seems like they mostly call it the Opera Garnier.

If you’re interested in Paris history, architecture, music, or of course the Phantom of the Opera, the Opera House is great to visit.  It’s very beautiful on the inside–Garnier went way over budget!  I recommend the tour–they do one in English, and you get to see the theatre, the grand staircase, and the foyer, along with a few other rooms.  You don’t get to go into Box Five–but I did get the guide to point it out while we were in the theatre (Erik has good taste, it’s one of the best boxes), and I saw the door from the hall too.  And there’s the famous chandelier.

The foyer is gorgeous, all gold decorations and mirrors and yes, chandeliers.  But you know my favorite thing about the foyer?  It’s mostly gold paint.  Garnier was struggling with his budget!  Gold paint was cheaper!  But I LOVE that.  It’s an Opera House–everything’s illusion.  Stay tuned for pictures for Saturday Snapshot!

Final word on the subject: read Susan Kay’s Phantom.  It’s just the most beautiful of books, the most heart-rending of stories…and if you’re anything like me, you will be haunted by the Phantom of the Opera.

Other reviews:
The Written World
A Fair Substitute for Heaven
A Night’s Dream of Books
Anyone else?