Leslie DalaVancouver Bach Choir
Phantom of the Opera

Date and Venue 20 April @ 8pm | The Orpheum

When one hears "Phantom of the Opera", what immediately comes to mind is the musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Yet Webber didn't write this musical, but rather made an adaptation of the 1925 silent film starring Lon Cheney. What VBC did in its one-night performance is something similar, but somewhat more interesting creatively.

It was as if we were in a theatre in 1925 watching a silent film with subtitles because the talkies weren't invented yet. On our left is an organ that dates back to early 20th century, and as the phantom plays his organ in the film, the organ player (Chris Gestrin) produces the music. Meanwhile, Music Director Leslie Dala conducts the Chamber Ensemble as they play their instruments and behind them, around 60 choir members sometimes singing the dialogues that appear on the screen and at other times, producing sound effects, i.e., applauses, people talking, wind sounds, etc.

What a spectacle! I was impressed by this multimedia well-organized three-ring-circus. At first I thought that the music was taken from the original film, but I noticed Composer Andrew Downing tuning his Double Bass instrument and I asked him if he picked up the music from the original film, and he said no, that it was totally his. Wow, what a composer! And just looking at his bio in the programme, he's won a number of awards and his style goes from classical, folk to world music. I noticed as the film was progressing that some tunes sounded like the blues, and at times, tango and jazz.

One thing that annoyed me, though, were the two lights that were in the conductor's podium. They were pointing towards the audience in the orchestra area where I was seated, and that was bothersome. But all in all, this 90 minute no intermission concert was an excellent and innovative production. It ended with a surprise when an effigy of the phantom appeared all of a sudden at stage left, to the delight of the audience.

© 2013 Ed Farolan