I was watching Phantom of the Opera when the twins got home from daycare the other day. The movie was nearing its conclusion and the opera within the opera, the Phantom’s “Don Juan Triumphant,” was just beginning.
They sat, one on either side of me on the couch like they always do when we watch television together. My boy commented that the singers sounded “angry,” but he seemed to like that and slipped inside my arm and rested his head against me in rapt fascination. My girl, refusing my arm around her, asked–like she always asks–“Which one is the bad guy, daddy?”
“It’s easy to tell with this movie,” I told her. “It’s called The Phantom of the Opera. The bad guy’s the Phantom and he wears a mask.” Except onscreen at that moment, several characters were strutting around the stage and singing, all wearing masks!
“Is that the bad guy?” she asked each time the camera focused on another masked character. “Is that the bad guy?”
“Well, it may be a bit harder to tell with this movie. But it’s one of your mother’s favorites,” I said.
Onscreen, Michael Crawford began “The Point of No Return.” “Listen to his voice,” I said. “You can tell he’s the bad guy by how he sings.”
My boy patted my stomach and nodded in silent agreement. My girl looked at me with her daddy’s talking crazy face but then, as if performing some internal calculus, nodded her head knowingly.
Later, as the conflagration of the theater reached the Phantom’s catacomb lair, with bits of it falling like burning snowflakes all around them, the Phantom, Christine, and Raoul sing the resolution of the love triangle, “Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer.”
As the fire threatens to consume them in their struggle, the Phantom subdues and binds Raoul and gives Christine his terms; become his forever and Raoul goes free, reject him and they all will die.
The music swells. The singing is passionate. It’s the very climax of the thing. My boy has stopped patting my stomach, transfixed by the drama, it’s been a few minutes since my girl’s said anything and just as I think to ask her if she knows who the bad guy is now she says, “I think the Phantom’s trying to be a good guy.”
“Yeah, honey.” I said. “I think you’re right.”