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on 4 December 2002
I only got this delievered and today and I'm in love with it! This version of 'The Phantom of the Opera' comes with a full script and lyrics in a booklet so you can follow the story. I have never seen this performed but I got the pleasure form just reading the booklet and listening as it went along. The booklet contains word to word script, even whats not on the cd including sound effects and the actions are in brackets; it's just like reading any theatre drama.

The music and cast are absolutely brilliant. Andrew Lloyd Webber is at his best here. Sarah Brightman as Christine, Micheal Crawford as the Phantom and Steve Barton as Raoul is an example of great casting. Any future cast has their work cut out for them.
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on 12 September 2006
Today, after Phantom of the opera became the second longest running musical in history (Cats by the same composer holds the first place) of the West End and the longest running in Broadway, and being one of the most produced of Andrew Lloyd Webber's work around the world, we can only agree with the statement of "The Times" reviewer which appeared on October 10, 1986, a day after the premiere in London, who wrote: "One thing is clear: Gaston Leroux's famous story is God's gift to the musical theatre. It wraps up the legends of Faust, Svengali, and Beauty and the Beast into a grand final death rattle of the romantic agony. It turns a theatre--the Paris Opera--into a replica of the universe, from the Statue of Apollo above the city's rooftops down to the infernal regions with their furnaces and stygian lake. And, musically, not only does it unfold to an accompaniment of the operatic repertoire, but also features a protagonist who is himself a great composer."

Phantom, with its operatic and lush melodies, intensive story and grandiose staging, remains one of the best and most beloved musicals of all time. That status is confirmed by the fact that it is finally going to the big screen - as a movie based on the musical, directed by Joel Schumacher and produced and worked on by Lloyd Webber himself, due to premiere in December 2004.

The musical is based on the Gaston Leroux's novel of the same title. It is set in the second part of the 19th century Paris and its famous opera house. The young soprano, Christine, is discovered as a talented young opera singer in the opera house. She is noticed by an old childhood friend, Raoul, and they fall in love. However, we find out that a third person, the mysterious Phantom, hiding behind a mask, is a musical genius who had been giving Christine singing lessons and who has developed a mad passion for his young pupil. He hides in the catacombs of the opera house, lurking on the outside world. He is determined to keep Christine for himself and the story evolves from here.

Apart from this interesting plot, the audiences were swept away by Lloyd Webber's tremendous score, which probably remains his best work. It combines the beautiful love songs and sweeping operettic arias, with numerous orchestral leads and crescendos. You can't help but being charmed by this beautiful and haunting score. The large numbers, especially, the last one, will probably move you deeply. The most popular numbers are "The phantom of the opera", a vibrating duet between Christine and the Phantom; "All I ask of you", a lovely love duet between Christine and Raul; Phantom's mesmerizing voice will hold you till the end in "The music of the night", Christine in "Wishing you are somehow here again" will evoke sadness, and many more.

One of the main reasons for the early success of this show and this recording was its original cast. Sarah Brightman, who plays Christine, was at that time married to Lloyd Webber and the role was written especially for her. Her soprano is more than adequate for this material and it ranges from low and soft to high and strong. It seems that Michael Crawford was born to play The Phantom not only because of his vocal abilities but also because there is some powerful, almost hypnotic attraction in his voice and performance, exactly how the Phantom is supposed to sound. His vocal transformations from sadness to wickedness are simply amazing. Steve Barton joins The Brightman - Crawford duo with the same power; the warmth in the voice as Raoul says it all. The other members of the cast are also noteworthy, especially Rosemary Ashe, as the snobbish primadonna Carlotta.

The lyrics by Richard Stilgoe and Christopher Hampton work well, despite the fact that some things are left unexplained, such as the source of the Phantom's mysterious powers. The show opened in October 1986 in London and was transferred to Broadway in 1988. It is currently still running on both locations.

The CD package comes with production photos and a full libretto.

The Phantom is a must-have for the musical theatre buffs all over the world.
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on 25 November 2004
Any recording of what I think is Andrew Lloyd Webber's best musical is wonderful, but there is something special about the first cast that is featured on this stunning double disc - maybe it's because Lloyd Webber wrote the part of Christine for Sarah Brightman, so her voice is perfect for the role; maybe it's because the rest of the cast were equally excellent. If you ever watch the show (especially until 26th February 2005 when John Owen Jones is Phantom - the only Phantom I've seen) you will be taken aback by the amazing effects and haunting music. Then, like me, you'll buy the CD and relive the episode - this is one of the best CDs I've ever bought. I'm too young to have been able to watch Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, but their performances on the CD are magical and you can almost see them act just by listening to them.
£17.99 as well: a bargain that will give you hours of happiness.
Track 4 is the best by the way - Phantom of the Opera on CD1. Listen out for the rhythm and the unforgettable theme tune.
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on 11 September 2006
Phantom of The Opera remains as enchanting today as it did 25 years ago. The original London cast is a gem and should find itself on every shelf of a Musicals fan. The real delight is hearing Sarah Brightman in one of her few Musicals roles. The work of Michael Crawford is strong and he glides through the role of the Phantom with romance whilst also retaining the sinister nuances of the character.

Sarah Brightman of course, is now a star in her own right, but she is truly the star of the show. After all, we must believe that the Phantom really does fall in love with her voice. And he does. And we all do. The voice of young(er) Sarah Brightman is shrill and almost boy-like and it is this quality which cements her assumption of the role. She sings at least 3 times more than any other character and is pure joy. When you have a composer composing songs specifically for your voice it's impossible not to sing your best, and this recording proves this.

Michael Crawford and Steve Barton sing beautifully and the final trio for Christine Raoul and the Phantom is absolutely gorgeous. Far superior to the film cast in my opinion, but both recordings are a must for Phantom fans and Musicals fans everywhere!
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HALL OF FAMEon 27 December 2005
In the mid-1980s, the hottest ticket in London to get was 'Phantom of the Opera', playing at Her Majesty's Theatre (of the few theatres in the West End that regularly changes its name, depending upon the gender of the reigning monarch), opposite the Haymarket Theatre. One could see long lines around the block before each performance, scalpers outside looking to cash in on their earlier luck of getting tickets, and disappointed tourists who did not realise that they had to book months in advance to get a seat. My secretary in the House of Commons got tickets in the queue, for four months hence, and was worried that by that time Michael Crawford might have decided to move on, and she would get stuck seeing a second-cast Phantom. In the end, she was fortunate. Crawford was still on when she got there. But I will never forget the evil in her eye the morning about two weeks later when she asked what I'd done the night before, and I replied innocently (no, really, innocently!) 'I went to see Phantom of the Opera last night.'

If looks could kill, I would not be writing this now. I actually got to see Phantom twice on the London stage, with Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman and Steve Barton, and both times were on a fluke. The first time I was walking past the theatre about 10 minutes after the start, and a scalper who had been unsuccessful at selling his tickets was giving it out at cost. This is the time my secretary nearly killed me. The second time was 'inherited' from a friend who was unexpectedly called out of the country on Foreign Office business.
I got the tape of the cast recording as soon as I could after seeing it the first time, and it brought back all of the wonderful scenes. The music of Andrew Lloyd Webber seems to either captivate or irritate, but not a lot in between. And, in fact, I find some of his music which falls into each camp for me. Phantom is one of those for me in which there are no weak songs.
Perhaps the best song of all is 'Music of the Night', a haunting minor key piece with superb lyrics which weave hopefulness and darkness together skillfully. The chord change at the end of the song, from minor to major and back to minor, is one of the most memorable changes in modern musicals. Crawford's strong but expressive and quivering voice exudes emotion as the lyrics work to expand perceptions:
'Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation;
darkness stirs and wakes imagination..
Silently the senses abandon their defenses...'
Strong songs such as the title piece, 'Phantom of the Opera', which mix traditional pipe-organ with modern electronic beats seem to work well in getting the mood established for the power the Phantom has over Christine, played beautifully by Sarah Brightman. Brightman became an international star in this role; she planned it that way--some cynics might say she used Webber to get stardom and then dumped him (of course, I would never say such a thing!). Brightman's voice was not the strongest, either on the recording or on the stage; she has matured much since then; however, as the part of Christine was to be a young-discovery, maturity and strength might have been misplaced in this role.
Raoul, Christine's true love interest, is played by Steve Barton, who does a very good job, with a good vocal interplay with Brightman on songs such as Think of Me and All I Ask of You, in addition to the interplay with Crawford on various songs, particularly nearing the conclusion of the story.
However, my favourite chorus piece has to be 'Notes', in which the proprietors of the opera, as well as the singers and patrons, begin to receive notes from unknown sources, and suspect everyone save the real source, the Phantom, who in the end comes into the scene -- this song is humourous, choral, and dramatic with simultaneous and dissonant elements in wonderful exchange. It then spins down to a wonderful violin strain that shows the fragile state of Christine in a beautiful musical way, hard to express in words.
This is a fun musical, with tunes and a story which stay with one long after hearing, and one that entices repeating over and over. Even though the 'craze' for Phantom has died down from its height more than a decade ago, the strength of the musical shows in the strong sales and widespread recognition that the songs from this musical generate.
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on 18 August 2007
I own the film soundtrack and this original cast recording version. I've seen the show 4 times now and this CD brings back the memories; the Overture does give you goose bumps and from this recording you get the flavour of the theatre experience.

When sung well, as they are in this case, 'Music of the Night' and 'All I Ask of You' are very moving. Sarah Brightman is the star of the original show as her voice is truly moving. I've always been skeptical about Michael Crawford, although his signing is excellent, I don't think brings the true gravitas of the character of the Phantom all that well.
I do like his interpretation of 'Music of the Night' though.

I've always preferred a Phantom that doesn't have too much of a 'Choir-Boy' type voice; Crawford gets close to this for me but never quite crosses the line. I saw performance once in London and it was a Stand-in Phantom and his voice was too high, I'm afraid!

Speaking of which, go and see Earl Carpenter, currently starring in the West End in London as the Phantom. He is the master. The last time I went with my wife-to-be and he was perfect; his portrayal of 'Music of the Night' that night was the best I've ever seen or heard, anywhere including New York (the Broadway cast were no slackers either, they were excellent).

So, which is best, the film or this soundtrack? My answer is they are both excellent, but are both very different portrayals of the songs. Get them both because it's worth it.
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on 13 May 2003
The musical re-construction of Pierre Leroux's origional horror story is a masterful tribute to the great authors most famed work that will be well recieved by fans of the book and those new to the tale alike. Andrew Lloyd Webers operatic creation remains unparalled where lyrics and music are concerned, not merely in terms of sheer innovative genius, but also in the perfect performance of his cast. Michael Crawford plays the Phantom with an enthusiasm previoulsy unsseen in the role, bringing the monsterous character that is Erik across in such a manner as to invoke equal amounts of sympathy as hatred for the murderous ghost of the opera house, very much like how the creature was presented in the novel. Sarah Brightman's performance as Christine is that of an angel of music and whoever cast Steve Barton as the Viscound deChagny deserves a standing ovation.
The story concerns the character of Erik, who after suffering a terrible isolation beneath the opera house due to his monsterous appearance falls in love with the beautiful soprano Christine Daae. However, he is not the only one to have been ensnared by the singers beauty and voice, and her childhood friend Raoul deChagny completes the complex love triangle between the three major characters. While the Viscount is clearly the better looking and least unhinged of the two, he is evidently not as willing to kill those who get in the way of his love as his unworldly counterpart. While the story vaguely follows the smae lines as the novel, it has been seriously altered in certain aspects but this is in no way a bad thing. While a few unforgetable moments have had to have been left out of the finished cut (like the Phantoms attempt to drown the Persian Dagora in the underground lake) it' well worth the sacrifice when they're replaced by songs like 'The Point of No Return'.
The double disc package comes with a handy pocket sized booklet containing the entire score for the show as well as the numerous story elements that are not included on this two disc set. While its nowhere near as good as reading the book (which is a mere three quid from the Penguin Classics Collection) it will provide enough coverage of the plot to follow whats going on in between the songs.
All in all, a brilliant composition, digitially remastered to boot. Missing out on an oppurtunity to hear this masterpiece is folly akin to trimming your beard with a lawnmower. Dont make that mistake.
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on 7 March 2005
This has to be the best of the Lloyd Webber musicals!!!
Yet still nearly 20 years after its debut, The Phantom of the Opera still grips musical lovers.
With the original cast members from 1986, this outlives anything heard before!
...and now digitally remastered, what more could Phantom phans ask for?
A thoroughly worthwhile purchase!
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on 23 November 2002
I originally heard the POTO theme sometime in 2001, and the music just grabbed me.
Being only 15, I wasn't old enough to see the original cast with Micheal Crawford and Sarah Brightman, and I have yet to see it, but this recording is absolutely brilliant.
It misses a few parts out, but oerall you get a general feel for the story, and I haven't gone a day without listening to some of it for days now!!
The music is wonderful, and right at the end, I can almost hear the clapping of an audience.
Overall, amazing music, amazing storyline, this recording is an absolute must for any fan of Phantom of the Opera!
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on 12 June 2002
I have been listening to the soundtrack most of my life, and have only recently seen the stage performance, i was a bit dissapointing about the actors they were no where as good as sarah brightman and michael crawford, this soundtrack is a true masterpiece, the range of music from the theme song to masquerade was truly magnificent, every house hold should have a copy of Phantom of the opera.
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