New York: Last chandelier falls - end for "The Phantom of the Opera"

Rarely has a stage element made as many headlines on New York's Broadway as the chandelier from "The Phantom of the Opera".

New York: Last chandelier falls - end for "The Phantom of the Opera"

Rarely has a stage element made as many headlines on New York's Broadway as the chandelier from "The Phantom of the Opera". It weighs several hundred kilograms. He begins by lying on the stage before being pulled up to the ceiling by a rope mechanism at the beginning - and he crashes back down just a few meters over the heads of the audience in the finale of the first act. But that is over now. On Sunday (April 16) the chandelier will light up at the scheduled 13,981. Performance of 'The Phantom of the Opera' swoops over the audience at the Majestic Theater for the final time. Then, after more than 35 years, the longest-running musical in the history of Broadway closes.

It is the end of an unprecedented musical hit: Around 19.5 million people are said to have seen the "Phantom" in New York and bought tickets for 1.3 billion dollars over the years, wrote the industry magazine "Playbill". Around 6,500 people have worked on the New York production over the course of three and a half decades, the live orchestra alone consists of 27 members, an ensemble size that is hardly imaginable today. Particularly unusual: According to the "New York Times", eleven of them have been there since 1988, because unlike the stars on stage with their annual engagements, the musicians' contracts usually provide for employment until the final end of the play's season .

Review after the premiere

But the story of the phantom with a disfigured face, set to music by the British hit musical author Andrew Lloyd Webber, who lives in the catacombs of the Paris Opera in the 19th century and falls madly in love with the singer Christine, not only found fans from the start. The show has always been seen by many as a spectacle that relies less on character drawings and subtle lyrics than on gaudy effects and easy-to-remember catchy tunes.

After the premiere on January 26, 1988, around 15 months after the premiere in London, the "New York Times" did not hold back in its criticism. "The Phantom is LLoyd Webber's first real attempt to write an old-fashioned romance that takes place between people instead of between cats or trains," it said at the time as a dig at the musical mega-hits "Cats" and "Starlight Express", which were also successful in Germany.

For the leading actress, Lloyd Webber's then wife, who would later achieve star honors as the singer of the Henry Maske anthem "Time to Say Goodbye", it rained scorn. "The coolly attractive Sarah Brightman has a luscious soprano voice by Broadway standards (at least in the amplified version), but she shows little competence as an actress," the newspaper wrote. "After months of acting in London in The Phantom, she still simulates fear and affection in equal measure, grimacing in bug-eyed grimaces and squirrel cheeks."

From mockery to global brand

Such mockery was quickly forgotten when the musical won seven of the Broadway Tony Awards and Brightman became just as much a star as in Germany the first leading actors of the Hamburg version, which started in 1990, Peter Hofmann and Anna Maria Kaufmann. The "Phantom" became a global brand with productions in more than two dozen countries, album recordings in Hungarian and Japanese, among others, a film adaptation with Gerard Butler, and productions that are still ongoing in countries such as Greece, Sweden and China.

There is even one particularly famous fan: in 2004, Donald Trump, who was still a real estate entrepreneur and star of the gossip columns at the time, wrote in his book "Think Like a Billionaire" that his favorite musical of all time was "Evita", but: "Great was also "The Phantom of the Opera"!" During the 2016 election campaign, Trump repeatedly even played the solemn ballad "The Music of the Night" before his speeches.

High costs and falling demand

But on Broadway the end is coming. According to the production company, the running costs are too high and the demand for tickets has fallen too much due to the corona pandemic. With the announcement of the end, a real "Phantom" hype began in New York: With more than three million dollars a week, the play is currently the most successful production on the approximately 40 Broadway houses, individual premium tickets were last sold for 697 dollars and the The last performance, initially scheduled for mid-February, has been postponed again. But it shouldn't go beyond April 16 because the "Majestic" theater has to be renovated.

However, the enterprising musical father indicated in an interview with the business website "MarketWatch" that he can also imagine a renewed performance of the musical on Broadway - a step that other major productions such as "Les Miserables" also took, which with clearly reduced orchestra and ensemble. "The Phantom texts me from time to time and says they're so in love with the New York audience that they don't want to leave Broadway," Lloyd Webber said in the interview. "I think maybe it might be a good idea to just get some rest."

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