Tuesday, 28 July 2015

CD Review: The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall

“We had such hopes..."

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, The Phantom of the Opera decamped to the Royal Albert Hall for 3 performances, the highlights of which were spliced together to give a full CD/DVD release package which contains as full a rendering of the entire score as it currently available. Maybe it was a rush job though as the sound quality on this CD really isn’t good enough for it to be genuinely recommendable, even for a live recording. 

I also had mixed feelings about the production itself. I just can’t get on with Sierra Boggess’ voice, her soprano voice always erring to the too shrill for my liking and the vibrato she employs has all the subtlety of a jackhammer. Christine isn’t the strongest-written of roles at the best of times and Boggess just feels too emotionally vapid to be the inspiration of such all-conquering adoration as she is served with in this story.

The adorers are much better though – Hadley Fraser gives an interestingly pitched Raoul who is as conceited as he is charming but sounding good throughout. And Ramin Karimloo’s Phantom is wonderfully vocally textured, moving from seductive charisma in the opening act to lure Christine into his clutches to an increasingly unhinged madness as his love later turns obsessive – the fullness of the score really lets us see his exceptional character work. 

Wendy Ferguson’s Carlotta is well-defined too, her comic take on the character fun to listen to, though she doesn’t have much to do, Daisy Maywood’s Meg is easy on the ear and Gareth Snook and Barry James deliver an excellent comic double act as the theatre managers. And as with any of these big tribute nights, the depth in the ensemble is gobsmackingly good – the likes of Jeremy Secomb, Killian Donnelly, Simon Bailey, and Katie Hall helping to enrich a dream company. 

Rounding things off is a five Phantom finale with Colm Wilkinson, Anthony Warlow, Peter Jöback, John Owen-Jones and Ramin Karimloo joining forces for a spectacular ‘Music of the Night’ – original stars Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman were also present but the former did not sing and the latter’s performance was not included here, presumably due to contractual issues. It’s not so much of an issue but that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s congratulatory speech involving them both is included.


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