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Review and photos: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Finnish National Opera


The audience flows into the auditorium of The Phantom of the Opera. On the stage we can see large, wooden boxes-- and a broken Chandelier. A-ha! This certainly is The Phantom of the Opera.

Review and photos: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Finnish National Opera
Hanna-Liina Võsa as Christine

The Phantom of the Opera made its first visit to Finland in the season of 2015 and now after three years it's made its comeback. The show is in English and now there's a new native English speaking cast member. The show I went to was on the 6th of November, starring Ilkka Hämäläinen as the Phantom and Iida Antola as Christine. Eagerly the audience waited on the show to start. It starts from the auction scene. Properties are sold from the old opera and the legend of the Phantom is being told. The theme tune everyone knows starts playing and we see a glimpse of the Phantom who stares at us from the stage. Slowly the Chandelier starts to raise up and the lighting show at hand gives goosebumps. We roll into the next act, which is set in Egypt. The theme tune is being cut and our soprano starts singing-- and soon a hand of an extra peeks from behind a set before its time. I frown, something's not right. And no wonder; the chandelier, as I heard afterwards, hadn't made its way fully to the ceiling of the National Opera. Soon after my frowning the show was called out temporarily due to this technical issues! "It's a little hustle what begins of it: the show is put on halt as soon as possible and in the backstage red lights turn on everywhere instantly", Ilkka, the Phantom of the night told me the next day in an interview. Iida as Christine adds her own view: "Well, first I thought what's going on... We were there in our ballet-outfits, little cold, thinking that when is our time to get on stage and dance, and then it came like oh, never mind then." During that time Ilkka would have had an idea: "It came to my mind when I was there backstage that if the manager of the show would have had little discretion they could have put my mic on and I could have sung: I'm here... The Phantom of the Opera!" Still the things turned out a little differently. The curtains were closed and a recording informed on the technical issue in Finnish, Swedish and English. After a while the manager of the show came on stage, begged a pardon and stated that we'll continue shortly. Then the theme tune was rolled again and the show went on. "Of course it was a little pity for the audience because it's a really epic moment when the chandelier raises to the ceiling, the music banging loud in the background", Iida admitted in the interview. I agree and sensed how the expectant keenness of the audience turned into somewhat more attentive, supportive atmosphere, which necessarily is not a bad thing.

Nevertheless, the situation was well handled-- perhaps not in the most imaginative way, but still. Safety first, as Ilkka would say.
The dynamics of the ensemble or extras is great as we can see some little details in it: the cleaning lady swings gently along with the music she hears, one dancer lip syncs with it, being in her own world and at the end of the scene when the set is changed, one dancer boy stops on his tracks to glance once more behind him, a hand on his heart. Little moments like this, especially seen in the faces and gestures of the extras, really brings the story alive! As Stanislavsky has said, there's no such thing as a small role, there are only small actors. There are also some fine details in the music: in the background of someone's talk a tiny flute is being played, which represents for example innocence.

Review and photos: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Finnish National Opera

I found a little hard time trying to make sense of some of the performers' way of speaking. The show was in English and most of the actors were Finns trying to do English accents. There were many parts where it worked out okay, but most of the time it was a little hard to follow as the accent swung between Finnish and English. Luckily there were translations in Finnish and Swedish at the top of the stage. The one performer I understood the most was the ballet teacher, who didn't try any other accent than her own, native Finnish one, which was the most clear, even aristocrat.

Perhaps the part I enjoyed the most in the show were the massive sets and well thought out scenography, in addition to the familiar tunes, though there were no organs that would have played live. The fog on the floor that represented water as Phantom and Christine rowed through it was really elegant. I also noticed how Christine's hair fit well with the lit candles of the Phantom's cave. Details, details! The way the Phantom grabbed the mask was somehow exceptionally good and quick, working out very well. The lighting was a big part of the show too that led it on, transformed it and also finished it, like in the final scene we saw. The scenery I loved the most was weirdly the rehearsal set in the middle of the show where Raoul suggest if Christine could sing in the coming Opera and lure the Phantom on sight. The lighting was perky and bright, coming from the right side of the stage and it looked like there was a huge window and pure daylight. Amazing!

Review and photos: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Finnish National Opera
Olli Tuovinen and Hanna-Liina Võsa

Phantom of the Opera tells a story about aspects anyone can relate to: loneliness and the need for love. Of course the feelings the Phantom has for Christine is rather obsessive, but still the full story is seen as a "romantic horror". There are some scenes, like the wonderful one on top of the roof with a massive Angel statue, where Christine and Raoul are talking, the Phantom following their conversation in the darkness. Raoul's jacket fits the color of the roof, Christine's hair to the twinkle of the light from the windows. After their conversation they go inside and the Phantom leaves to look at their shadows he sees from behind the windows: a scene that anyone can resonate with, really touching, an image of loneliness. Though it's a somewhat horror Opera I personally wasn't that much afraid, though one scene made my eyes a little wide as the people on stage were screaming for the first time in the show. Also the way they used the actual National Opera's auditorium brough realness to the show as if we would have been there ourselves, a part of the rehearsals set in the show.

The show balances well on eerie and comedic attributes as there's one scene where the gentle ballerinas rehearse and in the background there's this roundish man, carrying a mattress, wondering where he'd set it. Also the chemistry between monsieur André and monsieur Firmin was the best in the scene where they sung about the letters worked the best. That kind of joviality and actual attentiveness I would have wanted to see more from these jolly characters. The show has a lot of levels and things going on, especially for the one who comes to see The Phantom of the Opera for the first time, so the more you know of the story itself a little before the show, the more you'll probably enjoy of the visuality and music of which lyrics you wouldn't have to follow-- for you'll know them by heart quite quickly.

All in all The Phantom of the Opera at the Finnish National Opera is a great, must see performance of the well-known musical. It's a show with a big budget, something you can't see anywhere else in Finland.

The Phantom of the Opera runs in the Finnish National Opera till 12.1.2019

You can read the full interviews quoted in the article below:

Interview: IIDA ANTOLA is CHRISTINE of The Phantom of the Opera at the Finnish National Opera
Interview: ILKKA HAMALAINEN is the The Phantom of the Opera at the Finnish National Opera

Photos: Stefan Bremer
Article: Rosanna Liuski

Review and photos: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Finnish National Opera

Review and photos: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Finnish National Opera

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