one of my favourite lines from phantom of the opera is “Insolent boy, this slave of fashion” because out of all the things the phantom could have said, the first thing he decides to do is make fun of raoul’s fashion choices
Animated stereoview portrait of a group of seven elderly African Americans said to have been once owned as slaves by George Washington titled “Cooks, chambermaids, nurses and one hostler of Gen. Geo. Washington, found in and around St. Augustine, Florida.” Possibly a spurious claim. There are also two younger African Americans and a white woman pictured.
PETER JÖBACK: So… I expected to maybe like him better than I did? Cause I like what he brings to the role, how he talks about it, I like so much *around* the actual interpretation and performance. But was kinda underwhelmed. Or, I liked his Phantom. Quite a bit, in fact. But I didn’t *love* his Phantom.
So, OK, his Swedish Phantom was definitely the most solid of the lot. He sounded more comfortable singing in his mother tongue, not forcing an accent, which made him less twangy. A very good thing. Also, he seemed to maybe have more leeway with the acting specifics, which made him add some discrete ad-lib-ing moments. And yet…
Though his Phantom was solid in so many ways, I still had the feeling of seeing more of a caricature? Like, more Phantom Manor than Phantom of the Opera. More how he thought the role should look than what the character is. Everything seemed just a *bit* exaggerated. And frankly, though he probably sung his heart out, I didn’t quite feel he had the voice to nail it. Like, he has the range, but not the booming quality. You can do elements of kitsch if you have the voice to justify it (Ian Jon Bourg, Scott Davies). But with a good voice with pop phrasing, you better keep the acting on the classy or classical side, so there is a balance. But he went for exaggerated hand gestures, lots of bent knees, and not fully justified moments, paired with a good voice with a pop approach.
All that said, I saw two slightly different performances from him. One Friday evening, where he clearly struggled voice wise, shifted way too much between chest voice and falsetto, and rather devastatingly missed the high note in «Down Once More». Also finished MOTN long before the orchestra. I was like «???». I remembered him as vocally much better. Turns out he is. That performance was either an off-night or just low energy. On the Saturday matinée he seemed more secure, with steadier voice, longer notes and also not missing any key notes. Was very happy to see him a second time and see that he handled the score fine.
I quite liked him in the Mirror Scene, the Phantom’s curse, as Red Death and in the Final Lair. Those were stand-out scenes for me. Those are also scenes where you expect the larger-than-life acting. His MOTN in the Saturday matinée was also quite nice, and he did a gorgeous «soooaaaar».
His Final Lair was definitely the most interesting one. He stumbled around stage with bent knees, was quite unpredictable, and displayed some fine acting. I also loved his added «NEEEEJ!!!», pronounced like a small, spoiled child experiencing someone taking his toys away. He did it three times; one after Christine throws the wedding veil at him, once right before letting Raoul loose of the magical lasso, and I can’t remember the third one. It was a good detail.
Yet, I stand by what I wrote above, about his Phantom feeling like a caricature at places, and that he has too much of a pop sound in his voice. Things I thought could be done differently. But all in all a solid Phantom, a good voice, and the sole reason this production came to be, probably. I was very happy to see him twice, to see how he might do stuff differently the second time, and to get a feeling of what his Phantom was all about. And it should be added that he had good chemistry with Emmi Christensson.
EMMI CHRISTENSSON: WHAT. A. GEM!!!!!!! Gorgeous, soaring, clear, bell-like, strong voice. A nuanced and detailed portrayal. So beautiful on stage.
I saw her as Cosette in the Norwegian tour in 2014, and adored her voice. I’ve heard clips from her London run as Christine, and loved it. So obviously I was hyped to see her live in Stockholm. But she was WAY better than I imagined. She had moments of very nervous, distressed emotions - not quite on the level of Anna O’Byrne, but still distressed. Kinda hammering the palm of her hands over her ears in the WYWSHA intro is one example, desperately trying to kill the voices. She also looked so perfectly innocent on stage.
Standout scene for me was WYWSHA - the whole thing seemed so genuine and so in despair. Instead of going for «listen to the grandeur that is my voice», she took it down a notch, displaying Christine’s grief and solitude. It was really nice. A bit similar to Mia Karlsson in Copenhagen. TOM was also a thing of beauty. Such a gorgeous voice, so feather light and pleasant and yet with a strength, especially the upper notes. TOM was a scene I never wanted to end, in large because of her voice, but also because of Anton Zetterholm’s acting, and because of the GORGEOUS World Tour Elissa skirt. Baaah.
Also, the Swedish translation of «The tears I might have shed for your dark fate…» is one of my favourites out there, and was extremely well delivered by Emmi C: «Du kunde fått förståelse och stöd. Men nej - jag kunde se dig DÖD!» (you could have gotten understanding and support (from me). But no (now) I could (happily) see you DEAD). That’s strong words.
All in all, Emmi Christensson really is one of those ultimate Christines. I loved her portrayal, I adored her voice, I loved many of the details, and she totally looked the part. And she’s Swedish too. Can’t beat that combo.
ANTON ZETTERHOLM: Due to a very Copenhagen-esque directing in the Swedish revival, Anton Zetterholm did have moments where he reminded a bit of Tomas Ambt Kofod. And y’all know that will never be a bad thing, as Kofod is probably my all-time fave Raoul.
That’s however not to say that Anton Zetterholm was a blueprint. He had moments where I got the feeling he tried to imagine why Raoul reacted as he did. For example, a more unique detail was exactly HOW bored Anton’s Raoul seemed to be during TOM, tapping his fingers, looking around, mostly looking like he wanted to leave. When Mme Firmin looked through her binaculars, he seemed to get curious and borrow them from her, only to discover it’s CHRISTINE, and then he is on fire, leading up to his sung lines. The change from utterly bored to super exited was more pronunced than I’ve ever seen it before. Really, REALLY good acting. And also kinda justifying the Phantom’s raging «slave of fashion» - this Raoul isn’t really into music, he’s only into Christine. Though not because the rest of Paris is. Rather due to their childhood friendship.
He also had fine moments in «Little Lotte», where he perceived what Christine told him so innocently and so different from what she intended. He wasn’t brushing her off, but appearing to think she was talking allegorically, but then getting down to business - food, catching up over dinner, the joy of meeting his childhood friend again, the joy over her triumph and her success.
Last, but not least, he really REALLY fought that magical lasso in the Final Lair. I was about to write “like his life depended on it”, which I guess is quite suitable for the role of Raoul in that moment…
And on the shallow side: so cool to see a blonde Raoul. Costume design (and slightly Barton) coming alive!