I had never seen anything like the fine gold and deep blue of the theater’s ceiling. The theater had been built in the jazz age, it was evident in the geometrical patterns of ivory, gold, and bronze lining the ornate walls and roof. Sitting in my red velvet chair, my twelve-year- old mind pondered the stability of the deep blue roof above us. It appeared too delicate to hold such heavy beauty. I kept the thought to myself, thinking it too odd to share, and fingered through the scarlet Phantom of the Opera playbill while chatting with Mom and Jocelyn, the elementary school friend on my right. After a year of listening to the soundtrack, neither of us could believe we were actually sitting at the theater waiting for the curtain to rise.
And suddenly, all talk fell away, the lights above and to the side dimmed, and the heavy crimson curtain rose to reveal a thin gray veil enshrouding the stage. I had expected this performance to begin loudly, not with the murmurings of an auction man and soft melancholy melodies. Just as I settled in my seat a flash of light erupted from the stage and music exploded above, around, and in front of me. Jocelyn grinned next to me, and the corners of my lips tugged upward too. She was almost as excited as I was to be there; halfway through “Think of Me” she started to sing. Mom and I had to whisper to her the an unspoken rule of the theater is silence, no matter how seriously one wishes to sing along.
The moment the first song began, the skyscrapers and crowds outside that hallowed place were lost to memory. Music filled my senses and the story took its hold. Notes spilled and rose to a crescendo around me like thunder in my chest. In the music I could feel the struggle between pure love and passionate lust, virtue and immorality, aching grief and joy. I could not have articulated that, not at the age of twelve, but music speaks a language without words, too deep and too full of soul to use syllables. Chills tingled deep within our arms and surfaced in our skin at the Phantom’s final anguished last words –“it’s over now, the music of the night.”
Over though the moment was, the beauty and excitement has not left me since. I can still recall the nervous thrill of the fire upon the stage and boat ride through the mist. Even Mom, who did not have quite the same enthusiasm for musical theater as Jocelyn and I shared, was left in awe at the magnificence of the play. The world of skyscrapers reaching their long metal arms toward the sky was foreign when we walked through the large gilded stage doors. It had been forgotten in the grandeur of the Phantom’s symphony.