Aesthetic Encounter paper

Humanities 1000

Aesthetic Encounter Report

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Assignment Sheet

As one of the requirements for Humanities 1000, you will write two reports about aesthetic encounters in which you “participate” (defined as sustained, undivided attention) this semester. Before beginning an encounter, consult with me to see that it is an acceptable topic for the assignment. Museums, art exhibits, and religious exhibits that deal with human cultures from any era will generally be approved. Simple literary analysis is never appropriate for this assignment. Also, extra credit activities may not “count” as aesthetic encounters.

Your encounter should have three sections:

The Facts. Answer the reporter’s questions. Tell who, what, when, where, and why. Provide the information that would allow another person to engage in the same aesthetic encounter you did.

Interpretation and evaluation. Tell what you think about the meaning of what you saw or heard. Comment on technique and style. Use this section to give the audience a sense of how and to what extent the encounter measured up to your own aesthetic criteria.

Participation. Using specific examples, tell why the encounter succeeded or failed to maintain your sustained, undivided attention. Give a clear picture of why the encounter ultimately did or did not have an impact upon you personally.

Humanities 1000 is a collegiate level course, and I do hold certain expectations for collegiate level work. First of all, your reports need to be typed, double spaced, with a title at the top of the first page. In addition, take the time to follow the conventions of Standard Written English. While I will not mark Aesthetic Encounter Reports the same way I mark English 1102 essays, understand that no encounter that contains two or more fragments, comma splices, run-ons, and subject-verb agreement errors (in any combination) will receive a grade higher than a B. Likewise, no essay that contains four or more of those errors (in any combination) will receive a grade higher than a C.

The encounter, ideally, will be fun for you. Enjoy yourself, and consult me about any questions. The due dates are contained on the course calendar.


The Facts
This second Aesthetic Encounter will describe the night I watched “
Phantom of
the Opera
” at Her Majesty’s theatre in London last month. I have to start out by saying
that this was not my first encounter with “
”. I have long been a fan of Andrew
Lloyd Webber and caught the bug when I was cast as the Narrator in a high school
version of “
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor
”. From then on, I made sure
I attended anything that came my way that he had penned.
On May 12, I entered Her Majesty’s Theatre for the second time in my life. I first
saw “
” on my honeymoon, and was now afforded another opportunity to se
e the
mastery of Sir Lloyd Webber again. I have always felt there is an aroma to any West End
theatre and this one is no exception. Entering the lobby, I was overcome with emotion
just by the musty smell of years gone by. The front of the theatre is quiet
grand. The
architectural style is reminiscent of the French Renaissance with square domes clearly
visible. Inside, the current interior was designed after the opera house in Versailles.
Indeed a paper could be written about the theatre. It has been rebuilt
four times since it
was first opened in 1705 and I believe it is one of the finest theatres in London. Perhaps it
was fitting that “The Really Useful Theatre Company” acquired it with
” in
mind. Is there really an opera ghost after all?
The Phant
om of the Opera
opened on October 9th 1986 and is now in its 22nd
year. Produced by “The Really Useful Theatre Company” under the direction of Cameron
Mackintosh, it has become one of the most beloved of all of composer, Lloyd Webber’s
shows. The show has toured the world, and I have been lucky enough to see it in more
than one location, but it is where Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford first played out
the main characters in London that is most special to me.
Interpretation and Evaluation
The story begins in a worn down Paris Opera House in 1880. The house lights
dimmed and there was an immediate hush in anticipation of the opening scene. An
auction is taking place in an effort to raise money for the venue that has fallen into a state
of disrepair. An
elderly man sits in his wheelchair as lot number he is most interested in
comes up. It is a musical box and the man will stop at nothing to place the winning bid.
The dialogue is spoken; an unusual trait for Lloyd Webber and his style but as the candles
start to flicker and air of uncertainly falls, the orchestra strikes up. As many times, as I
hear the opening Entr’acte, the main theme still sends shivers down my spine. Then the
magic begins. The chandelier, which must be auctioned off next, begins to ris
e out into
the Orchestra seats and slowly rises up above the audience. The gasps of excitement and
disbelief are clearly audible. I just sat there in amazement. It is always breathtaking.
The first scene changes the mood very dramatically. We are taken back to when
the Opera House was in its heyday and a performance of “Hannibal” is going on. The
colors are magnificent and as a member of the audience, it is difficult to know where to
look. The theatrical arrangements are superb with cardboard elephants, la
vish costumes
and ornate headdresses. The main character is flustered when the candles flicker again
and the shadow of the Phantom lurks in the rafters. A piece of scenery falls, knocking
Carlotta to the ground. She promptly walks off stage, essentially wa
lking off the set,
leaving the pure, virginal ensemble cast Ballerina, Christine Daae, to take it from there.
Christine was played by Leila Benn Harris. A relative newcomer, I wondered how
her voice would fare. Having seen Sarah Brightman, I always make a
comparison, but
Ms. Harris was delightful and she hit all the right notes. Our first glimpse of Phantom is
seen through the magic mirror and was played by Iranian actor Ramin Karimloo. I am
never as critical of the man in this role because in the first pr
oduction, the British actor
Michael Crawford, best known for his role in a comedy show,
“Some Mother’s do have
” convinced me that the true versatility of an actor is his range. Mr Karimloo had
such range, mastering difficult songs and engaging the audi
ence with his presence.
The play unfolds and Christine replaces Carlotta permanently and wins the hearts
of everyone. She is possessed by the Phantom, who has secretly trained her, and catches
the eye of Raul, who now sees Christine for the first time in
many years. She is now
grown up and quite lovely. He is immediately smitten. From then on the music, romance
and visual images kept me glued to the stage for almost three hours.
The fact that the style of the show is operatic may be off putting for some
. Yet,
the pureness of the voices of the actors allows you to understand what is being sung and
it is easy to follow. The two jovial owners of the Opera House share an amusing duet,
which lightens up the story with an element of farce.
One of the aspects of theatre that has always held my attention is the ability of the
cast to change costumes so quickly and for the sets to change with apparent ease. The
other thing is the illusion that there is a cast of thousands when really a few doze
n actors
play different roles. There is some magic in Phantom, not especially complex, but the
first time the Phantom appears through the mirror, is always a tre think the music and lyrics are especially significant. The fact that Lloyd Webber
took an old classic, then rewrites it with Sarah Brightman in mind is touching. The story,
although a love story, examines the emotion on many levels. Christine is young and
innocent, Raul is rich and handsome and the poor Phantom just wants to be loved.
Whatever opinion you may have about love, the culmination depends on your affinity
with each of the characters. I have always felt sorry for the Phantom and wanted him and
Christine to end up with other. Participation is on a passive level, although it was
easy to
find myself singing along with the actors at many points during the show. However, the
show is so well done, I was totally consumed by the storyline once again, and because the
theatre is not huge, it is very easy to be drawn in and feel close to the action.
All too soon, the final curtain fell, and I look to the next U.S tour where I can see
the show again. “Phantom” engages the audience with visual brilliance, beautiful songs
and orchestration and attention to detail that no one else seems able
to achieve. I hope
that if you get the chance to see the show again, you too will be swept up in the magic of
“The Phantom of the Opera.”

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