sunnuntai 20. marraskuuta 2011

Phantom of the Opera - Budapest, spring 2010

I'm not a huge fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber, but PotO is my favourite of his musicals and besides Cats and Sunset Boulevard the only one I really like, especially music-wise. I've seen PotO once before, in London, and mostly the Hungarian production was a more impressive experience.

The production is probably the only one in at least Western countries that looks different than the original production, and I must say I prefer the Hungarian look. I had quite high expectations because Kentaur has designed the sets and costumes and I've loved everything else I've seen from him this far, and I definitely wasn't disappointed this time, either. The visual look is more realistic and beautiful and somehow lighter (as opposite to heavy) than the original that slowly starts to have quite a 1980's air in it. Generally it's refreshing to see something newer than the sets and costumes I already know too well. My favourites were the lake and the Phantom's cave, the office of André and Firmin, the Opera House's roof, and Point of No Return which took place in gorgeus monastery-like sets. There's everything necessary on stage and nothing more or less. Kentaur can create a perfect atmosphere with very simple things and seems to be the master of creating impressive and beautiful sets out of almost nothing, and they don't even look cheap. Like, the monastery-like PonR sets I admired turned later out to be made of a one-dimensional canvas. I was totally fooled by them on the first time, the perspective worked perfectly and made everything look 2- or 3-dimensional.

Attila Csengeri was probably the whiniest and most baby-like Phantom I've ever seen. If Christine had stayed with him, she would have had to tie his shoelaces, hold the handkerchief and tell him to blow his nose, and generally be his mother. He was so whiny that the sudden bursts of rage couldn't be taken seriously anymore, because he was basically just a kid whose mother hadn't bought him candy. I wanted to slap him and tell him to pull himself together. He wasn't even lunatic and angry enough for my taste, just a pathetic angsty case who couldn't really take care of himself. Besides, his voice definitely wasn't enough for the role and he wouldn't have seduced anyone with it. He looked quite good in black leather trousers, and that's pretty much all the positive I can say about him.

It was interesting how Christine-centered the performance was, at least for me and with this cast. Christine (Renáta Krassy) wasn't the air-headed innocent victim she usually is - this Christine had a good deal of common sense and a will of her own. Had she had a chance to fight with Carlotta, she would have told the diva to shut up and f*ck off. I really strongly got the feeling that the story was mostly about Christine and her attempt to get over the death of her father. It sometimes even felt like the Phantom-parts of the story were mostly happening inside her head, and for her the Phantom really was the Angel that her father had sent. At its strongest the image was in "Masquerade". You know there's a part in which Christine dances a wild twirling dance with Phantom-like masked people? In this production the rest of the cast was frozen during it, so it really seemed like Christine's dream that she was experiencing in completely her own world, a bit like only Elisabeth sees the Death in "Der letzte Tanz". After it she ran horrified through the groups of still people and woke them up again by touching them. I've never really cared for Christine, she's usually been one of the most boring heroines out there, but now I was actually fascinated by the character. Krassy also sang well, although I've also heard better Christines. Being blonde herself, she also had a blonde wig, and I appreciate the theatre for making their actors look like individuals and not trying to clone them.

Bálint Magyar was a good Raoul with very believable Raoul-like looks and a nice voice. Raoul wasn't an idiot or a fop or anything, just a normal sensible young nobleman who likes this girl he has known when they were kids. I usually say that Raoul and Christine deserve each other in all their brainlessness, but in this case they made a very good couple because both could think and were equal. One detail I really liked was in the end of "All I ask of you" when Raoul and Christine kiss. He didn't just jump on her and give her a big smack; they both hesitated, left each other time to back out if they wanted to, and in every way made it look like their first very careful kiss.

Later we saw the show with a different cast. We were supposed to have Viktor Posta as Phantom, but he was replaced with the 1st cast Phantom, Sándor Sasvári. I must say I wasn't disappointed at all, he was the best Phantom I've seen this far. Not perhaps his voice, because I've heard better ones and the voice alone wasn't anything that special. I mean, he sings well and technically things were fine, but when I'm listening to the CD I don't get the baritone sex drooling effect that PotO could be at its best. Just ("just") a good voice. He wouldn't seduce me with it.

But good heavens, the man has charisma. It works pretty much like a sock filled with sand. It knocks you between the eyes and, perhaps differing from the sock here, it owns your soul for the next week or so. You couldn't help staring at him every time he was on stage, or paying attention to his acting even when you could only hear his voice. His angel-of-music-ness was very much based on the charisma, but it worked perfectly. His stage presence was amazing.

I really liked Sasvári's acting. Phantom is a damn hard role to do so that I can believe in the character and not just roll my eyes. It's very easy to be too emo, too angry, too angsty, too crazy or so on, but Sasvári had a very good balance between them. Even the parts that often feel ridiculous (Phantom playing the organ and generally being Passionately Artistic) were natural. And his Phantom was hot. Not in the Gerik way, because we're now talking about a 53-year-old heavy-built man and not about an oiled 30-something action movie actor, but in the way Phantom should be hot. His general being simply told you that he's hot, and you had no choice but to believe. (Pretty much the same way his being told you that he sounds like the Angel of Music, and you simply believe.) I could have melted during Point of No Return.

Um, yes, there were other actors on the stage, too. Before the show I was most curious to see Gábor Bot as Raoul, because based on his Krolock and Chagal it's hard to imagine him as Raoul. Then again, if he can be believable both as Krolock and as Chagal, it maybe tells something about his acting skills. He was a very adorable Raoul, friendly and dutiful and as smart as a Raoul can be, considering that it's he who suggests the great Let's Catch The Phantom plan that can only fail. I wanted to pet Raould and could totally imagine marrying him and living happily with him ever after. I can't connect anything very erotic to him, but a woman could easily have a balanced and peaceful marriage with him. He wasn't annoyingly stupid or too nice and blue-eyed. I like the way the director has handled Raouls and Christines here, they have brains.

Andrea Mahó as Christine wasn't as strong-willed and commanding as Renáta Krassy, but she also wasn't a passive idiot. I don't know how she'd be with Attila Csengeri as the Phantom, because in this performance she had very strong men around her. I didn't pay much attention to her because the men stole most of it, but generally I really liked her acting and singing and have nothing to complain.

I liked the rest of the cast, too. André was adorable, and Carlotta had impressive croaks. And I do mean croaks, she wasn't just going "graah" but really imitated a frog very well. It actually seems that we had Mónika Safár as Carlotta on both times, though there was some other name in the list on the first time. I like her, she's not overacting too much. I'm amused because she was the original Sisi in the Hungarian production of Elisabeth, while Sándor Sasvári was the original Franz Joseph. Now I can't get rid of the image of Phantom doing the whole Operation Soprano already with Carlotta when they were younger. No wonder he's so bitter and cynical nowadays.

Another detail I have to mention is the very ending with Meg Giry. I've never liked the original "Now I make a very exaggerated half-kneeling ballet pose and lift this mask theatrically up so that everyone can see it", so I was very glad to see Meg take the mask and the rose, put them on the ground, and then kneel behind them with her head slightly bowed as if she was mourning/praying for the Phantom.

This time they even had the boat in the title song. In my first performance the thing apparently didn't work, because the Phantom carried Christine across the lake. I noticed that there was no boat, but nothing seemed to be wrong and the scene looked so natural that I just thought that the Phantom doesn't have a boat in Hungary because the lake can be crossed without it. They used it in the later scenes, though.

The managers are hilarious. Firmin is played by a very lively elder man who pinches ballet girls and likes to be the centre of attention. Kentaur has made them dress up as owls in the Masquerade, and especially Firmin likes to leap around cheerfully and go "Huuuu!" (or whatever an owl says in English).

Later I also saw Viktor Posta as Phantom, but he wasn't very impressive in the role. Decent, but nothing special.

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