Saturday, December 6, 2008

de Chagny Family

Who are these people? Well, it depends on what storyline you choose – Webber or Leroux.

In Webber's version, Raoul is the patron of the Opera Populaire, a financial and artistic supporter of the operatic arts, along with his parents who hold titles of nobility. By virtue of Raoul’s title, Vicomte, his father holds the title of Comte over him, and there is no mention of siblings.

In the original work, Raoul’s parents are not alive, as mentioned in the play and movie. Leroux’s version indicates that Raoul’s mother died giving him birth. At the age of 12, his father passed away, and his two sisters and elder brother, Philippe, raised him. Raoul also spends time with his aunt, and it is there while visiting her near the sea that he meets Christine Daae.

The de Chagny family, as written by Leroux, is a well-established family dating back to the fourteenth century, holding a vast amount of property and wealth. They have their own family box at the Opera House to view performances, and it's not Box 5. The characters of Raoul and Philippe, as aptly penned by Leroux, give further insight into these individuals. For those of you who have never read the original work, here are few tidbits of character background.

Raoul was noted as being extremely polite and a perfect man in his behavior, but somewhat shy. He had a tendency to openly show his emotions. He loved the sea, and one of his ancestors was a famous naval admiral. Raoul graduated the French Naval Academy with honors; and at the time of the Phantom matter, was on a long furlough. He was termed as “charming,” 21 years old, but looked much younger, fair perfect complexion, blue eyes, and small mustache.

Philippe de Chagny was his elder brother (20 years older), and is described as spoiling Raoul and being proud of him. Leroux’s description of his character is as follows: “Philippe Georges Marie Comte de Chagny was just forty-one years of age. He was a great aristocrat and a good-looking man, above middle height and with attractive features, in spite of his hard forehead and his rather cold eyes. He was exquisitely polite to the women and a little haughty to the men, who did not always forgive him for his successes in society. He had an excellent heart and an irreproachable conscience.” However, Philippe de Chagny is supposedly murdered by the Opera Ghost in the original work.

How did the de Chagny’s view Christine Daae? Philippe often fought with Raoul over his affections for the Diva. Raoul’s brother termed her as, “little baggage” insinuating that because she was alone, had no protector or benefactor, she wanted more from Raoul than just love – the money grubbing social climbing Diva mentality once again.

Raoul, of course, loved Christine from the day he met her at the seaside when he rescued her red scarf from a watery grave. After spending the summer with her, they became childhood sweethearts, and he did not see her again until three years later. It’s interesting to note Leroux pens that at the end of their meeting Raoul tells Christine he would never forget her, and then "...went away regretting his words, for he knew that Christine could not be the wife of the Vicomte de Chagny.” Why did he say such a statement? It was due to their difference in classes; for in the real world, their match would have been unacceptable to family and society.

The more time I take to study Raoul’s character, the more I appreciate the man. Of course, in the Phantom fan world, most dream about Erik and Christine forever, yet there are a small majority of fans out there that dream about Raoul and Christine. Once you get to know the man behind the character, you have to give him some credit. He loved Christine deeply and risked everything in life to be with her – including his own life to save her. In the book, he dares to defy his brother’s wishes over his longing to marry her; and in both versions, he risks his life to save her from the Phantom. These acts alone tell me he was a man of character.

So is the story real or Hollywood? Was it possible that Raoul and Christine, after having floated away on the gondola while singing Webber's music, lived happily ever after in the 19th century world? You might want to think that matter over, because no doubt there would have been great obstacles to their match in real life from family and society.

As always, I encourage you to pick up the original version and read. It will give you a deeper understanding behind the characters and their motivations.

I am, as always, your obedient servant.
The Phantom’s Student

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