Over the course of a century, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra’s cloak has been thrown wide to encompass many retellings and adaptations in every medium – film, radio, stage, television and print – since Gaston Leroux first saw it serialised in the pages of Le Gaulois in 1909/10. Many of these adaptations, such as the 1943 film starring Claude Rains in the titular role, have themselves been folded back into the original story, adding to the legend.
And now, through until October 21st, that cloak has been thrown over MetaLES in the form of a tribute to the original story and some of its many interpretations, entitled A Bit of Red, by Kicca Igaly and Nessuno Myoo.
Floating over the landing point on a series of large blocks (between which it is possible to fall if you’re not careful), lay key scenes from the story. Most will be recognisable to those at least familiar with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical production (and short notes, indicated by the presence of a rose or rose petal, help give context to each scene), although the influences do go back to the original tale, and reflect some of the other many adaptations.
Thus we have, for example, the motifs of the Phantom’s mask and the opera house itself (although sadly, not the great chandelier); there is a familiar great pipe organ, from which huge spherical notes float, and there is a the ruin of a boat, and an iron grate through which one can drop to a tunnel below, all representative of the story; the last referencing the labyrinth of tunnels and cellars beneath the opera house and which play a key role in the tale. Finally, raised above the centre of everything, is a dais on which Erik, Le Fantôme and Christine stand, separated by a mirror, symbolically broken on one side, whole on the other.
Alongside of these there elements rich in symbolism, such as the broken cage. In it we can see Erik’s desire to hold Christine as his own – captive, if needs be – and also his change of heart towards her in setting her free. It also, perhaps, symbolises his own heart held captive to her and destined only to be broken. Or if you prefer, there is an alter, reminding us on the one hand of Erik’s attempt to force Christine to marry him under the threat of destruction and the death of others, and on the other of her love for Raoul and her desire to be with him.
Then there is the memorial to Christine. It both serves as an affirmation of Erik’s promise to the Persian within the novel that he did indeed set both Christine and Raoul free, and as a reference to the 2004 Joel Schumacher film, carrying as it does Christine’s married title and her dates of birth and death.
In all A Bit of Red has been carefully constructed and does present an interesting reflection on Leroux’s work and its various offspring. The intricate design the weaving of the key aspects of the tale into understandable vignettes is undeniable. Nevertheless, in exploring, reading and witnessing, I couldn’t help but feel I was merely that: an observer. I didn’t feel as involved in the installation as I had perhaps hoped on my arrival; the Phantom wasn’t there, inside my mind, so to speak. Perhaps he’ll be in yours.
And as I’ve quoted a particular song from the musical, I will close with what remains my favourite rendition of that song.