THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – FROM THE BEGINNING

PART 1 - LEFT ALONE IN THE WORLD

The room was deadly silent as Christine strained her eyes to look around her in the darkness. She could just make out Meg's face, in the bed next to hers, she seemed to be in a contented sleep, smiling to herself. She looked like a little porcelain doll with her beautiful blonde hair strewn like a halo around her head on the pillow.

"I wish I had hair like that" Christine whispered with wonder to herself as she quietly got out of her bed and tiptoed to the dormitory door. As usual, midnight was the time when she would carry out her nightly ritual of praying for her late father.

Slipping silently out into the corridor, Christine breathed a sigh of relief that she hadn't been caught. Madame Giry, the ballet mistress and Meg's mother, was extremely strict when it came to sleep, and had insisted that each of the girls were to be in bed for 9pm at the latest when they were not performing in the Opera Populaire that night. Christine had never meant to rebel against this as she knew that Madame Giry was only striving to get the best out of each of her ballerinas, especially herself and Meg. Christine just felt that she needed these moments of solitude in an otherwise crowded atmosphere.

Christine bit her lip as she carefully tried not to let the floorboards creak beneath her. She did not want to upset Madame Giry as she was the closest thing to a mother she had or would ever experience, as her own mother had died in bringing her into the world.

When she was younger, her father had always told her endless stories about her mother, so that she could get an idea of what she had been like. When he spoke of Marguerite, her mother, the look in his eyes would contain much sadness and adoration. He would constantly explain to her that Marguerite had been named after the main role in Gounod's opera Faust, as her whole family had been musically gifted and each of them had loved opera.

Night after night, Christine and her father would talk together for hours about her mother, music, and any silly childlike subject that Christine wanted to speak of and Christine had thought, and hoped, that those days would never end.

After talking to her for hours, when he could see her eyes starting to look tired, he would then play his violin for her and she would fall into an enchanted sleep at the beautiful sound. Her father was an accomplished violinist and often took her with him to various Concert Halls and Theatres in France. His life had fascinated her and she had been delighted to watch him perform to all those hundreds of people who applauded him and shouted cheers of approval.

Christine smiled, as she let her mind wander to those glorious days.

There was one theatre visit that always remained vivid in Christine's memory. The theatre had been in the French coastal town of Le Havre, and her dad had secured a two week contract to play there as one of the various artists who had already been booked to perform. Christine had remained backstage, as usual, watching the artists perform and as well as watching her father with great admiration, she had also grown increasingly inspired by the great operatic singers who were performing. Back in the small holiday cottage where she and her father were staying, she would sing to herself, practising what she had witnessed on stage.

One night, as she was walking outside the cottage, she had started to sing, liking the sound of her voice being carried on the night air. She had been shocked to notice a boy standing in the shadows, listening intently. Feeling nervous, she had instantly stopped and blushed.

"No carry on" the boy had urged "You have a very sweet little voice"

"Thank you" Christine, feeling ridiculously shy, had wanted to run as she had never had much experience with boys and this one was the most captivating boy she had ever seen. He was obviously of fine breeding, she could tell by his clothes and his voice.

"Just out of curiousity, how old are you?" the boy stopped her "I was just wondering, you look very young to have such a good voice"

"I am 9, what about you?" Christine was sure he was a few years older than her, too old to be interested in a little girl like her

"13. My name is Raoul De Chagny" Raoul held out his hand and Christine gingerly shook it.

"My name is Christine. Christine Daae" she blushed at the touch of his hand "What are you doing out here"

"I left my parents in the hotel" he looked out towards the sea "I like to walk by the sea. It's beautiful, don't you think"

"Yes" Christine followed his gaze and watched the sea crashing against the cliffs "I often like to walk around here myself

"Often? How long are you here?" Raoul questioned.

"My dad has been performing at the Theatre. We are here for another week" Christine explained

"Well I would very much like to come and see you again, if that is ok" Raoul smiled "Tomorrow night?"

The second time they had met, her father had insisted that Raoul came in for something to eat and drink and Raoul had happily listened as her father played the violin and she sang. In the remaining time that Christine was in Le Havre, she and Raoul had become good friends and had talked and giggled as her father had prepared small bonfires just metres away from the edge of the cliffs. Then, Raoul, Christine and her father had sat around the bonfire while her father had told them deep, dark stories to which they would listen intently. As always, the nights would end with them all singing and her father playing his violin around the bonfire.

When time had come for Christine and her father to leave Le Havre, she had left with a heavy heart, knowing that she and Raoul would probably never meet again. Her father, seeing her unhappiness had tried to cheer her up all the way home with comical stories and songs which had helped a lot but Christine had just gained and lost her first love in the space of a week and that was a lot for a 9 year old to take.

Making her way, slowly down the steps to the Opera House chapel, Christine wiped away a tear from her eye. It had been just over a year since her father had died. Just under a year after the happiness and laughter they had shared in Le Havre, Christine had had to watch as illness had engulfed her father, day by day until finally, his life had come to an end and she had suddenly been alone.

During his 7 month illness, his finances had crumbled due to his inability to perform and bit by bit, most of the things they had owned had been repossessed and there was very little for him to leave Christine when he died. In the last month of his illness, he had told Christine to take whatever he had left and to make her way to Paris where he was sure she would be able to find employment in the Opera Populaire. Christine had been frightened and didn't share her father's confidence that they would want her there.

"But father" she had protested "I have never had any proper singing lessons, nor any dancing lessons, what if they don't take me in there?"

"You have natural talent" he father had reassured her, struggling for breath "Trust me Christine, you are sure to find a way for yourself there. You have a beautiful voice, that only needs a little tuition. I am sure that when they hear you, they will be more than willing to help you improve"

"I don't want you to leave me" Christine had sniffed, trying to stop tears from falling.

"Please, don't cry" her father had noticed the tears welling in her eyes "I will send the angel of music down from the heavens to look after you"

"Angel of music?" Christine's interest had been aroused

"Yes" her father had weakly smiled "The angel will guide you, in your heart and soul, to your destiny"