Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Story Behind the Song: "Music of the Night" from 'The Phantom of the Opera' by Andrew Lloyd Webber

The slip cover for a vinyl 7" release featuring "Music of the Night"
Musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is reputed to keep a musical bank. He composes tunes and deposits them until they can be used in a musical. Sometimes a tune is withdrawn from the bank only to be returned for use later.

“Music of the Night” from 'The Phantom of the Opera' was first called “Married Man” and composed by Lloyd Webber for Sarah Brightman. This version which premiered in 1983 at his Sydmonton summer arts festival had lyrics by Trevor Nunn. The song was intended as an opening number for the musical ‘Aspects of Love’ for the character of Giulietta, an Italian sculptress who in the novella by David Garnett is the mistress of the character named George and later the wife of his nephew Alex.

The 1986 London Poster
Though “Married Man” was recorded, it could not be released because Lloyd Webber’s lawyers felt that a song with that title sung by Brightman while he was still married to his first wife and with whom he was in the midst of difficult divorce negotiations could not be made public. This was even though Brightman sang it later in a concert at London’s Barbican Centre. So the song went into the drawer as it awaited rebirth along with the whole of ‘Aspects of Love’.

(Lloyd Webber was married to Sarah Hugill from 1972-1983 and then to Brightman in 1984 until their divorce in 1990.)

The melody resurfaced when Lloyd Webber was creating ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and the song was no longer for Brightman who would play Christine in the musical but given to the Phantom. However Brightman has recorded “Music of the Night” and performs the number in her concerts.

As sung by the Phantom, “Music of the Night” had much different lyrics when it was performed at Sydmonton by Colm Wilkinson in 1985. Gone were the words of Nunn and replaced by those of Richard Stilgoe and Charles Hart who further revised the Sydmonton version into the present one heard in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ when it finally premiered at London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1986 and sung by Michael Crawford. ‘Aspects of Love’ opened in 1989 at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre with no traces of the “Married Man” song or lyrics.

The extreme success of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ has lead to accusations of plagiarism. The estate of Puccini accused Lloyd Webber of plagiarizing several musical motifs from “La Fanciulla Del West” (The Girl of the Golden West) for “Music of the Night”. The lawsuit was settled out of the court and the terms never made public. Other reports compare the song to “Come to Me, Bend To Me” from the musical ‘Brigadoon’ by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

Below are YouTube videos of “Married Man” performed by Sarah Brightman and the Sydmonton version of “Music of the Night” sung by Colm Wilkinson. The lyrics are re-printed below for comparison purposes. In the final video, an interview shows Lloyd Webber talking about the versions of the song.

"Married Man" (music Andrew Lloyd Webber; lyrics Trevor Nunn)
Dreams of summer, secret smiles between us
Of us meeting, you thought they had seen us.
We thus tried explaining, then it started raining,
Then you said I love you girl and then
I'm much too old to fall in love again.

Time was golden, I felt I was falling,
Waiting, smiling, hoping you'd be calling.
Loving eyes upon me, showing me you love me,
I woke up beside you once and said
I don't think I could fall in love again.

Married man you were happy and you let me know
As you run up the stairs to reach my door.
But I cried every time you had to go.
Should have said, don't come here anymore.

Winter, silence, shadows on the ceiling.
You said, you're too young to know that feeling.
Then your voice seemed colder,
then you said I told her.
I said well she's older but then
She's young enough to fall in love again.

Though I tried to forget her as you live with me.
But you cried when she met you to return.
You said no that's all over but you lied.
Married man, are you too old to learn?
Spring can be a very cruel season,
Help me, help me, don't ask for a reason.

Please you must believe me, I want you to leave me.
One day if you're free, but not till then.
I'm young enough to fall in love again.
I'm young enough to fall in love again.

"Music of the Night" Sydmonton Version (lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe)
Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation,
Darkness multiplies imagination.
Slowly all the senses, abandon their defenses,
Helpless to resist the notes I write,
For I compose the music of the night.

Close your eyes, for your eyes will only tell the truth,
And the truth isn't what you want to see.
In the dark it is easy to pretend,
That the truth is what it ought to be.

Take your time, break in, filling us completely.
First love, slaughter, adverse words of greeting.
As the night is nearing, the touch, the taste and hearing,
Gradually replace redundant sight,
Preparing for the music of the night.

Close your eyes, let the touch of it, abuse the soul;
Let its timbre crescendo in the flame.
Can you tell, is it pleasure? Is it pain?
From now on, you'll never be the same.

Go now, gently; my music, though you fear it,
Let me show you, only stay and hear it.
Measure after measure, an instrument of pleasure.
A treasure-house, of passion and delight.
Come join me in the music of the night.

All along, my soul can not be right,
Help me make the music of the night.


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