Ahead of the Maltese premiere of The Phantom of the Opera in Concert, Iggy Fenech speaks to lead actor Roger Tirazona to find out what audiences can expect from the Grapevine Music’s adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic.
Opening in London’s West End in 1986, The Phantom of the Opera has gone on to become one of the most successful musicals of all time. The numbers, in fact, speak for themselves: the musical had been seen by over 130 million people in 145 cities across the world; it has grossed over €4.77 billion worldwide; and it is the longest-running musical on Broadway, and the second longest-running in the West End after Les Misérables.
Now, this worldwide phenomenon based on the 1910 French novel by Gaston Leroux, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, is coming to Malta for a two-night special, semi-staged event featuring a cast of 65 actors and a 45-piece orchestra under the baton of Mro Paul Abela.
“The Phantom of the Opera is now in its 31st year and, seeing how many people have seen this show globally, it can be considered as one of the most popular musical theatre spectacles in the world,” says Roger Tirazona, who will be playing the lead role of the Phantom, a man born with physical deformities and who terrorises the audiences of the Opéra Populaire in Paris.
“Getting the licence to put this production up in Malta was no easy task and we are very lucky that we have been given this extraordinary opportunity to do so. This is one of the crowning jewels on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s crown – one which, until recently, would have been impossible to produce,” he continues.
Having performed and played excerpts of the part of the Phantom before, Roger is now taking the opportunity to truly perform the iconic role; a role which comes with an intricate narrative and journey that see him finally redeem himself as he is shown compassion by a fellow human being for the very first time in his life.
“From all the parts I’ve ever played, I have to admit that the role of the Phantom takes the cake in terms of complexity,” Roger explains.
“I have been preparing for the role for months now, working closely with the script and the music to give the character lots of intention and a strong back-story that goes beyond the beauty of the music, which we all know is a masterpiece.
“Having said that, I felt it was not that difficult for me to empathise with the Phantom or to walk in his shoes. I guess it’s easier to live a character’s story, when your own life story has given you the tools to do so, you know?”
Staged by Grapevine Music – the same company that brought us Ġensna: History Rocks (2014), 1565 The Musical in Concert (2015), and The Sound of Music (2016) – and directed by Ray Mangion, Malta’s first, semi-staged adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera promises to be an incredible one.
Co-starring with Roger will be Nadia Vella, in the role of Christine, and Ashley Stillburn as Raoul – a role he has already played at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End. Beyond that, Mro Paul Abela, a prolific arranger of orchestra who has worked with the likes of Joseph Calleja, Ronan Keating and Gigi D’Alessio, will be leading the live orchestra that is twice the size of those used in regular London shows!
“Rarely has so much effort, energy and budget been put in such a musical theatre show in Malta… If at all!” Roger says.
“The Phantom of the Opera deserved nothing less than the best we could offer.
“For this production, the MFCC stage will be transformed into the 19th-century Paris Opera, with costumes being brought directly from UK designers for us by the production.
“I have no doubt that even people who have watched Phantom in London, will have a different experience of the show when attending our production directed by Ray Mangion.”
The Phantom of the Opera in Concert, although a semi-staged production with fewer-than-normal props and costumes for the musical, promises to be a local milestone in terms of musicals and an unmissable spectacle at that.
“The producers and The Really Useful Group Ltd. [Andrew Lloyd Webber’s official company], have shown confidence in us that we can handle a show like Phantom in Malta, and I think we should all feel proud of that!” Roger concludes.
With a cast made up of mostly local talent, the team behind Malta’s Phantom is certainly set to whet the appetite of Maltese ‘phans’… And we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.
Phantom of the Opera runs on Friday and Saturday at the Malta Fairs and Conferences Centre, Ta’ Qali. Tickets are available online.
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