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Text changes in The Phantom of the Opera 
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Post Text changes in The Phantom of the Opera
Listening to the recording of the 25. anniversary concert (got it for Christmas :) ), I started to think about this again. I thought about it when I heard the Canadian cast recording, but I've never even seen it discussed (as far as I can remember). Why was the text for for example Think of Me changed? Does anyone know the reason?

It is also somewhat strange that Mme Giry doesn't get a song, what she gets that is closest to a song, is her telling of the Phantom's past, which is little more than recitative. It struck me, could the song that was written for the movie be tweaked to be sung by Mme Giry? I think it's a nice little song, but the Phantom already sings an awful lot in the show. Could giving it to Mme Giry solve both problems?

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Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:04 pm
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Post Re: Text changes in The Phantom of the Opera
Interesting idea, actually. Not sure where it could fit in, but I like that idea a lot.


Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:01 pm
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Tony Winner
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Post Re: Text changes in The Phantom of the Opera
Hans wrote:
Listening to the recording of the 25. anniversary concert (got it for Christmas :) ), I started to think about this again. I thought about it when I heard the Canadian cast recording, but I've never even seen it discussed (as far as I can remember). Why was the text for for example Think of Me changed? Does anyone know the reason?


"Think of Me" is the lyric they have changed the most. Including "What has time done to me" in Sydmonton to the current version there have probably been four or five different ones. Why? I assume it's one of those the lyricist never was fully satisfied with and has continued tweaking. But I really don't know.

The only reason I've heard thus far is one given by an original ensemble member. She said people sometimes thought Steve Barton sung "What a change, you're really not a bitch, the gawkish girl..." (you're really not a bit the gawkish girl...). So it was changed completely, to "Long ago, it seems so long ago, how young and innocent we were..." to avoid misunderstandings.

WYWSHA has also been changed back and forth a bit. Sometimes they re-add the verse "Three long years I've knelt in silence" instead of "Passing bells and sculpted angels" in West End. But for the last 5 years or so they've used the latter. International translations have used both. I remember the Danish libretto originally had:

Kneled' ned i år og dage, hæged' om dit minde...
Har jeg søgt det længst forgangne, uden dig at finde...


It was soon after changed to:

Kolde sten og marmorengle er symbol på smerte.
Fjernt fra alle varme minder som er i mit hjerte.


I'll never forgive the translator for adding a hjerte-smerte (equalling "heart-apart" in English) rhyme. She did excellent work in general, but that one is low... But as an interesting side note, they used the "gawkish girl" for the TOM translations in Denmark. It seems the libretti are inconsistent on which versions is included of the various songs.

The US and UK version also differs a bit. They rewrote a verse in Masquerade for the Broadway production, and they also have Carlotta sing in English rather than Italian when ranting in "Notes/Prima Donna". And they have the Phantom say "Little vixen" instead of "Little viper" in STYDI. Again: why? Dunno.

Meg's second verse in "Angel of Music" was changed early on. In the cast album she sings "Christine, you must have been dreaming, stories like this can't come true... Christine, you're talking in riddles, and it's not like you!". But shortly after it was changed to "I watched your face from the shadows, distant to all the applause... I hear your voice in the darkness, but the words aren't yours...". This is a drastic improvement, I think. Much more poetic, and with much more content. Or subtext, if you will. Interesting, though, most (or all?) translations go by the old lyrics.

A thing more related to translations than changes: The "Angel of Music" lyrics has some of the most elegant rhymes I've seen in a musical libretto. They're worthy of Tim Rice. Listen to the melody next time, and spot the rhymes:

Really, you were perfect
Who is this new tutor?
Somewhere inside, hiding
He, the unseen genius
Grant to me your glory
Secret and strange angel

This is repeated throughout, in AOM, in the Mirror scene, in Wandering Child and in the Final Lair. It's one aspect no translations has ever managed to keep. Maybe because they didn't spot the rhymes, or maybe because it's hard to keep the intentional meaning of the words as well as the structure. I first discovered them when listening to Claire Moore in the 1993 studio cast recording. She has the cutest lisp, but a rather perfect diction still. She put a bit of emphasis on these rhymes, I don't think I've heard others do that. But then again, she's one of the original Christines and probably knew the "tricks" of the lyricist. Interesting also, the 1993 recording contains different lyrics for a few songs compared to the 1986 London cast. They're nice for comparing lyrics.

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Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:09 am
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Post Re: Text changes in The Phantom of the Opera
operafantomet wrote:
A thing more related to translations than changes: The "Angel of Music" lyrics has some of the most elegant rhymes I've seen in a musical libretto. They're worthy of Tim Rice. Listen to the melody next time, and spot the rhymes:

Really, you were perfect
Who is this new tutor?
Somewhere inside, hiding
He, the unseen genius
Grant to me your glory
Secret and strange angel


Yes, I remember you pointed it out once. I like it.

Do you (or anyone) know why Stilgoe and Hart wrote the lyrics for Love Never Dies? Were they asked, but didn't want to?

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Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:09 pm
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Post Re: Text changes in The Phantom of the Opera
operafantomet wrote:
The only reason I've heard thus far is one given by an original ensemble member. She said people sometimes thought Steve Barton sung "What a change, you're really not a bitch, the gawkish girl..." (you're really not a bit the gawkish girl...). So it was changed completely, to "Long ago, it seems so long ago, how young and innocent we were..." to avoid misunderstandings.


I'm pretty sure the first lyric you quoted is what I heard Tuesday night at the Majestic, as I misheard the lyric the exact same way and couldn't help chuckling a little. I had my doubts that was what Raoul was saying, but no idea what the actual wording was.

operafantomet wrote:
Meg's second verse in "Angel of Music" was changed early on. In the cast album she sings "Christine, you must have been dreaming, stories like this can't come true... Christine, you're talking in riddles, and it's not like you!". But shortly after it was changed to "I watched your face from the shadows, distant to all the applause... I hear your voice in the darkness, but the words aren't yours...". This is a drastic improvement, I think. Much more poetic, and with much more content. Or subtext, if you will. Interesting, though, most (or all?) translations go by the old lyrics.


Again, I seem to remember hearing the first lyric at the performance I recently saw. I know this post was made back in January. Perhaps yet another change has been made since then. I'm no expert on Phantom, but you seem to be and imply that lyric changes are quite frequent for the show. You've got me curious about the topic.

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Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:18 am
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Post Re: Text changes in The Phantom of the Opera
Hans wrote:
It is also somewhat strange that Mme Giry doesn't get a song, what she gets that is closest to a song, is her telling of the Phantom's past, which is little more than recitative. It struck me, could the song that was written for the movie be tweaked to be sung by Mme Giry? I think it's a nice little song, but the Phantom already sings an awful lot in the show. Could giving it to Mme Giry solve both problems?


I've often thought that the music used as "You See I Am No Ghost" in The Woman In White would be a perfect Mme Giry song, for the part of the show where she tells the Phantom's backstory (obviously with different lyrics).

I strongly suspect (though I can't prove it) that the tune was written with the Phantom sequel in mind and if so it wouldn't be out of place to use it in the original show. There's a precedent now with a Beautiful Game tune having been recycled into Love Never Dies...

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Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:42 pm
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Post Re: Text changes in The Phantom of the Opera
ActingDude17 wrote:
I'm pretty sure the first lyric you quoted is what I heard Tuesday night at the Majestic, as I misheard the lyric the exact same way and couldn't help chuckling a little. I had my doubts that was what Raoul was saying, but no idea what the actual wording was.

(...)

Again, I seem to remember hearing the first lyric at the performance I recently saw. I know this post was made back in January. Perhaps yet another change has been made since then. I'm no expert on Phantom, but you seem to be and imply that lyric changes are quite frequent for the show. You've got me curious about the topic.

I'm not implying lyric changes ARE frequent. I implied that the lyricists never were quite content with "Think of Me" and changed it a couple of times during the first year or two. We're talking between 1985 and 1987 sometime. After that it's been used in its final draft, except one word that was changed for the Vegas production ("world" was green, instead of "trees").

As for hearing the old lyrics at The Majestic recently, I think your memory is deceiving you. I know a dresser in the production, and asked her about it. She said nothing had been changed since I was there in August, and they definitely used the new ones then. She also said the old lyrics were only used in West End, not on Broadway. As an example, this 1988 clip of Sarah Brightman and Steve Barton singing "Think of Me" is with the new lyrics:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHUiqTPxQP4

(when I write "new" I mean the ones not in the Original London Cast Album, but the one that followed it).

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