The Music of the Night

By: Amanda Ashley

Christie Matthews couldn’t believe it, she was actually inside the Paris Opera House. It was everything she had ever imagined, and more. Try as she might, she couldn’t find words to describe it. Beautiful seemed woefully inadequate. Awesome came close, but still fell short.

She owed her fascination with the Paris Opera House solely to Andrew Lloyd Webber – or to be more exact – to her fascination with the amazing production The Phantom of the Opera. She had seen the movie, of course, but it didn’t hold a candle to the stage play. She had seen the play once, and once had not been enough. The music had enthralled her; the plight of the Phantom had touched her every emotion from joy to despair, and she had eagerly joined the ranks of those feeling emotionally drained when the Phantom’s last anguished cry faded away.

She had become obsessed with all things Phantom. She had collected everything she could find with that world-famous logo: music boxes and posters, ads in the paper, books and magazine articles. If it related to the Phantom, she simply had to have it: dolls and figurines; snow globes and playing cards; picture frames and jewellery; Christmas ornaments and collector plates; every version of the music on tape or CD that she could find.

Before coming to Paris, she had researched the Opera House online and found a wealth of information. The Opera House had been built by Charles Garnier (at that time a young, unknown architect). Completed in 1876, the Palais Garnier was considered by many to be one of the most beautiful buildings on earth. The theatre boasted 2,000 seats; the building’s seventeen storeys covered three acres of land. Seven levels were located underground, among them chorus rooms and ballrooms, cellars for old props, closets and dressing rooms, as well as numerous gruesome objects from the various operas that had been produced there. It was rumoured that these grisly effects had sparked the idea behind Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera.

And now, after scrimping and saving for three years, she was there, in the Phantom’s domain. Alone. Shortly after the final curtain, she had hidden in one of the bathrooms. If she got caught wandering around, she would simply say she had lost her way.

Which would not be a lie, because she really was lost. There were so many hallways, so many doors, she no longer knew where she was.

Her footsteps echoed eerily in the darkness as she climbed a set of winding stairs and then, to her relief, she found herself inside the theatre.

She sank into a seat near the back of the house and gazed around, wondering if this had been such a good idea after all. It was dark and quiet and a little bit spooky sitting there all alone.

Resting her head on the back of the seat, she closed her eyes and music filled her mind – the haunting lyrics of ‘The Music of the Night’; The Phantom’s tortured cry when he sees Christine and Raoul pledging their love on the roof top; his heartbreaking plea when he begs Christine to let him go wherever she went; his anguished cry as he takes her down to his lair; his rage and anger and the faint glimmer of hope when he demands she make her choice; the last haunting notes when he declares it is over.

There was a never-ending discussion on any number of web sites about whether Christine should have stayed with the Phantom, and also surveys asking whether the listers themselves would have stayed with Erik (the Phantom) or gone with Raoul. Poor Raoul, he seemed to be disliked by one and all.

There had never been any doubt in Christie’s mind that she would have stayed with the Phantom. She knew what it was like to be left for another, knew the pain and the heartache of unrequited love, knew there was more to life than sweet words and a pretty face.

Sitting there, with her eyes closed, she seemed to hear Christine’s voice, but of course, it was only her imagination.

Still, it seemed so real. Opening her eyes, Christie stared at the stage, blinked and looked again. Was there a figure standing there? A figure wearing a hooded cloak and a red scarf? Christie rubbed her eyes. Not one figure, but two. A dark shape wearing a black hat with a long, curling black feather stood beside the cross on the cemetery wall. A long black cloak covered him from neck to heels. Was that a staff in his hand? Canting her head to one side, Christie heard him sing ever so softly and sweetly to his wandering child.

Christie sat up straighter and leaned forwards. It wasn’t possible. She had to be dreaming. She rubbed her eyes again. The figure of Christine seemed transparent, ghost like, but the Phantom . . . She was certain he was real.

Fear sat like a lump of ice in her belly, and then she realized that what she was seeing was probably just some star-struck member of the cleaning crew, or a night watchman wearing one of the Phantom’s costumes, or . . . Of course, it was an understudy who had stayed late to rehearse. It was the logical explanation, except it didn’t explain the ghostly Christine.

Suddenly, echoing through the empty building came the Phantom’s cry of rage as Christine turned her back on him and left with Raoul. Fireballs spit from the Phantom’s staff to light the stage and the image of Christine disappeared. But the figure of the Phantom remained standing near the cross, his shoulders slumped in defeat, his head bowed.