Monday, March 22, 2010

The Man Behind the Mask

Magnet # 199: The Phantom of the Opera Poster

Material: Ceramic

Purchased By: Mom & Dad

World-renowned British musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was born on this day in 1948. He was raised in a family that consisted of very talented musicians - his father was a composer, his mother a pianist and violinist and his younger brother would go on to become a cellist. In this creative environment, young Lloyd Webber thrived. He was composing his own music by the age of six and at nine years of age, he published a suite of six pieces. When he was older, he studied history briefly at Oxford, but soon he decided to study music at the Royal College of Music and pursue a career in musical theatre. Before long, he was getting his first tastes of success, along with lyricist Tim Rice, with shows like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita. But it wasn't until the 80's that Lloyd Webber truly achieved stardom. That's when his musicals Cats and The Phantom of the Opera both hit Broadway and shattered records for sales, won numerous awards, and enjoyed two of the longest runs for any musicals on record. They made Lloyd Webber a household name. It was around this time that he made this date important for another reason. It was on this day in 1984 that he married singer Sarah Brightman, the original female lead of his The Phantom of the Opera, although they no longer celebrate the anniversary of it as they divorced in 1990. But both have gained a great deal of success because of the musical. Since then, he has composed other musicals such as Sunset Boulevard and The Woman in White and produced still more. And just recently, he released a sequel to The Phanton of the Opera, Love Never Dies, which is set in Coney Island in 1907. While it's played in London, it has yet to be released on Broadway. It has received mixed reviews ranging from praise to scorn, but I would like to get a chance to see it for myself - or at least listen to the score. Late last year, the news broke that Lloyd Webber had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but his prostate gland has been removed since and he is reported to be cancer-free. I'm glad to hear it and I wish him the best of health in the future.

I have to admit, I am not usually a very big fan of musicals, but I do like those of Lloyd Webber's. I mostly listen to the music from them, but I have seen The Phantom of the Opera twice, once in Toronto and once on Broadway, but it was a long time after Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford had left the show. I really love the story, music, costumes, and sets and, as I mentioned, I am a little curious to see the sequel. But as much as I like the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, I honestly love his art collection even more. Webber is a devoted fan of the Victorian artists, as I am, and he has amassed quite a collection from some of its greatest painters. He owns works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne Jones, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, William Waterhouse, and my personal favorite artist, Lord Frederick Leighton. In fact, his collection is so impressive that both an exhibition and a coffee table book have been inspired by them. The title of both is Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters - The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection. I haven't gotten the book yet, but I intend to. And Lloyd Webber has expressed his wishes that his family let the public continue to appreciate these masterpieces after he is gone. If you've ever experienced regret over not buying an item you wanted, trust me he's had far worse. Back in the early 1960s, he had the opportunity to buy Lord Leighton's Flaming June for a mere fifty pounds. But his grandmother wouldn't loan him the money and it slipped through his fingers. It's now the most beloved painting in Puerto Rico's Ponce Museum of Art and one of the most popular of all Victorian images. Clearly, however, Lloyd Webber didn't let its loss prevent him from buying more incredible images. And when his impressive collection is combined with his wonderful musicals, it is clear he has made the world a more enjoyable place over the course of his life, and that's definitely worth celebrating on this of all days.

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