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The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera came to Manila, and I was lucky enough to catch its last performance. It was mind-blowing. I’m still basking in the glow of the sad love story told through the acting of the cast of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions. Its different kind of compassion you have for a man with a face half-burnt but half handsome, compared to the skin-on-the-bones monstrous genius written about in the book. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the gift of a powerful story tonight. The set design and costumes were impressive. The candelabras could mechanically compress! I couldn’t help staring at the brilliant, ruby red curtains during intermission. And I couldn’t help smiling when the curtains opened to the masquerade scene (one of my favorites) where so many costumed people decorated a grand staircase.

My favorite Phantom of the Opera songs are Music of the Night and Masquerade. Even though Masquerade sounds like a happy song, it’s actually sad. “Hide your face so the world will never find you.” For the movie version, another song that stuck with me was Learn to be Lonely (this was back in university) because feeling alone was a predominant feeling back then. What touched me then and now about the Phantom was his place as an outcast. Aside from unrequited love, his is a story of a man who felt so ashamed of himself, he hid behind a mask. He was a man who constantly felt rejected by the world, and by himself. He was ashamed that he was ugly and unlovable, and heartbroken that nobody would be able to see through his grotesque appearance and actually embrace him. He looked at himself as an ugly creature who dreamt of beauty. The man was brilliant, but until Chistine Daaé, he lived in a tiny bubble that only echoed with his voice and music, with no one else to share in his world. (sentiment captured by Music of the Night)

Masks are the things we use to hide ourselves. In the case of Phantom, his masks were the white mask and the face of his music, Christine. For some of us, masks can be the things we do, depending on our motivations. There was a time when making art was my mask. It’s what I showed the world, since it was one of the few things I had that could help me find a place to belong. It seemed like the only part of me that people accepted. But it didn’t change who I was: an insecure person with a deep sense of shame and rejection. Most of it is in the past. Over the years, I’ve began to accept and love who I am. It takes some getting used to being in your own company, but it’s something everyone needs to get comfortable with. I’m also thankful for my best friends, the handful of people who make my world brighter by being a part of it, and who make my world bigger by welcoming me into theirs.

This is now my benchmark for a good Phantom of the Opera performance. I probably won’t watch another one unless I have to. What a grand weekend.

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