This symposium, an interdisciplinary look at the concept of ‘the operatic’ in contemporary culture organised by the Centre for Cultural Studies and the Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre at the University of Sussex, reflected the same interest in the fringes of operatic high culture as the Phantom on Film project. Members of the Network proposed a panel with the premise that the Phantom, despite the narrator’s prayers over his remains at the end of Leroux’s 1909-10 novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, is among the most stubborn revenants of the operatic. He is a walking repository of clichés about the art form in subsequent novels, plays, musicals (of course) and films.
Among other things, we examined how the notion of the operatic in popular culture changed as the Phantom of the Opera migrated to different cultural traditions and media over the course of the next century, from the Paris Opéra to, for example, Mexican lucha libre (Santo vs El Estrangulador, 1963) and Bollywood song and dance (Om Shanti Om, 2007).
It was interesting to be able to discuss these and other aspects of the project at this small and concentrated event, in particular with conference organiser Nicholas Till (Professor of Opera and Music Theatre at the University of Sussex) and keynote speaker John Storey (Emeritus Professor of Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland).