Those who know how obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera I was in high school have been putting me on notice of PBS’s special broadcast of it this month. This televised version is so much better than what it was like experiencing it live, as I can now finally see and hear everything: the volume can be turned up; no one’s head is in my way; I never have to rise, two verses into a dazzling duet, to allow a single-file line of tipsy people to shuffle to their seats 25 minutes late; and (thanks to those pledge drives) there are more intermissions. (I’m in favor of PBS brokering a deal with the Broadway theaters. I would pay a little extra to be able to see hot live shows from the cushions of my couch, and know 6 or 7 others who would be willing to do the same.)
When I wandered around the Parisian opera house this musical is based on last month, I wanted the Phantom to reach out to me (via slamming one of the doors I walked through or whispering something naughty in my ear). I’m still miffed that he didn’t. For that nine-euro entry fee, would it kill them to rattle a chandelier in there every now and then?
I get how the idea of that place being haunted came about. The lighting was pretty dim and the air smelled like sorrow. My late grandmother had a friend who used to live in a house that felt similar to this one.
A partially open door led out to a small balcony, where there was a half-full bottle of Moet on the thick ledge I leaned against. On the street below, a homeless man was sprawled out on a huge blanket he had spread over the concrete, across from an Apple store. The hushed tones of bewitchingly beautiful music from a rehearsal somewhere else in the building wafted out and into the atmosphere.
Since a real mood had now been set, I pulled out the brochure I grabbed on the way in, to read more about the history of this joint. But it was written in German, and I don’t know any German, so I used it as a visor to keep some of the sun out of my eyes while I tried to see if I could spot a Starbucks anywhere within a 2-block radius of that Apple store.
Oliver Sacks Has Left the Building
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