Masquerade (The Phantom of the Opera song)
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"Masquerade", a number from the musical The Phantom of the Opera was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber to lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. After writing this song Lerner withdrew from the project and Lloyd Webber invited Charles Hart to take over. In the plot at the beginning of the second act Masquerade accompanies the New Year's masquerade ball at the Opera House. Several months have passed since the fall of the chandelier and the cast and crew of the Opera House have heard nothing of the Phantom and have assumed that he has left them for good. The owners of the Opera, André and Firmin, are determined to celebrate both the Phantom's departure and the installation of a new chandelier. In the 2004 film of Phantom of the Opera the lyrics at this point run: " . . . our friends who are here . . . ", because the fall of the first chandelier is moved to a later scene. Christine and Raoul mention their secret engagement, and each expresses doubt and the realization that their silence about the engagement is not necessary.
Themes and metaphors
The song begins in a bright, cheery, and perhaps innocently sinister manner, with all people dancing and swirling about in costumes. The lyrics, though, reveal something strange about the song in their description of the power and ability of masks to conceal one's persona: concealment may seem like a game, but the words reveal hiding away has a dangerous side. As the revelers sing, "You can fool any friend who ever knew you!" Indeed, Firmin and André begin the song by tentatively approaching one another in skeleton costumes, each uncertainly whispering the other's name, and then they break into a self-congratulatory conversation once they have established their identities.
The song also acts as a strange parallel to the Phantom himself. The lyrics of the song boldly state:
Paper faces on parade...
Hide your face so the world will never find you...
This mirrors not only the fact that the Phantom wears a mask to conceal his disfigured face, but also the fact that he hides himself away from the world. By turning his daily practice into a fun but dark game for the patrons and workers of the opera, the song suggests that all social interaction requires one to metaphorically conceal oneself. One can only enjoy perfect liberty while in disguise. This is driven home when the Phantom disrupts the song by arriving in an elaborate Red Death costume and mask, bullies and taunts the managers and wrenches the chain Christine wears her engagement ring on from around her neck.
It should also be noted that "bal masques" were popular middle-class entertainments held at the Palais Garnier and elsewhere throughout the latter quarter of the nineteenth century, and did not necessarily have any connection to other events or performances at the Opera.
"Masquerade" is usually viewed as the show's theme (alongside the "Phantom of the Opera" melody), mainly because it is the first song that the audience hears throughout the whole play, even before the overture begins. It is the song that plays from the mysterious monkey and barrel organ music box that eventually becomes a symbol of the Phantom's and Christine's love. In the play's final scenes, the Phantom, unmasked, observes the music box in his lair. It comes to life by magic, and tinkles out its tune across a vast, silent stage. The Phantom sings the lines quoted above while staring at his mask, reflecting on his life of hiding away and perhaps on his impending need to secure himself from his pursuers. He finally whispers, "Christine...I love you...," echoing Raoul's identical declaration several scenes before (in the song "All I Ask of You"), before preparing to disappear. Perhaps significantly, he leaves his mask on his chair.