The Persian ~ Le Personnage Principal of A Christmas Fairytale

All signs led to him.

“I was immensely interested by this story of the Persian. I wanted, if there were still time, to find this valuable and eccentric witness. My luck began to improve and I discovered him in his little flat in the Rue de Rivoli….I also went into the past history of the Persian and found that he was an upright man, incapable of inventing a story that might have defeated the ends of justice.”

~ The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux

Long before I read a single Victorian novel, I was obsessed with a different story. The musical The Phantom of the Opera was my absolute favourite story from the moment my grandfather first took me to see it when I was in elementary school. Something about the heartbreaking love story (which is so similar to my favourite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast, in many ways) touched me profoundly, and my passion for the music, characters and eventually the original French text of Le Fantôme de l’Opéra has been ingrained on my heart for what feels like my entire life. I sincerely believe in the power of music on the human soul, and the soundtrack to The Phantom of the Opera has very much been the soundtrack to my life – it is the music I instantly turn to when I am stressed, the opening notes from The Point of No Return are my alarm clock tone, and I have derived infinite pleasure from seeing the musical on more than half a dozen occasions, in many different cities around the world.

Years later, when I started studying the French language, I picked up Gaston Leroux’s novel and flew through it. This was a turning point for me, when I realized that I did in fact understand French…and that I absolutely adored the language. I would not be even close to where I am today, in terms of my education and my career, if I didn’t speak French, and I credit my desire to pursue the language all throughout my schooling to my first experience of reading and loving Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. The text branded itself on my heart alongside Andrew Lloyd Weber’s gorgeous music.

I remember distinctly when I was in third year university and stressed out of my mind studying for my French exams (ironically). That was the year that the 25th anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera was performed at the Royal Albert Hall (again, ironic, considering that the venue is named after one Prince Albert of England), and lucky for me, it was broadcast by Cineplex at a theatre only 10 minutes away from my home. I bought tickets as soon as I learned they were on sale, and since I was single at the time, I dragged my mom with me to the theatre. I was truly and utterly blown away by the production, and I became attached to the portrayal of the characters by Sierra Boggess, Hadley Fraser and most particularly Ramin Karimloo. Karimloo performed as The Phantom, and although I will always be loyal to my first Phantom, Colm Wilkinson, Karimloo totally blew me out of the water with his incredible voice and tortured portrayal of one of my favourite characters. I was obsessed, and I went home and Googled him immediately, purchasing as many of his CDs as I could. I learned that Karimloo was Iranian born and had moved to Toronto when he was a child. He grew up in Toronto, where he first saw The Phantom of the Opera, and because of Colm Wilkinson, decided to pursue acting and singing. I didn’t know much about Iran, but somewhere in my searching I read that Iranians are often referred to as Persian…whatever that meant. It certainly wasn’t relevant to me at the time.

Flash forward to just over a year later, when a bookish girl who believed in nothing more than True Love sat down across from a kind, gentle, loving boy. He asked for her phone number, after only moments of speaking to her, and the rest, as they say, is history. In an attempt to get to know this new guy who had entered my life and who seemed to be taken with me, I started texting my now fiancé before our first date, asking him some key facts about himself. One of these questions was his nationality, to which he replied Persian.

Persian… Persian… I scratched my head at that one and asked my mom where exactly Persia was on the map. Turns out, it isn’t on there anymore and my mom (who is Lebanese) explained that Persian people hailed from Iran. Then, it hit me…Ramin! He was Persian! Well, if that sexy, brilliant singer was Persian, then I was certainly planning to give this new guy a chance. I went on my first date with SS with an open mind and heart. (Imagine my disappointment, though, when I learned early on that he couldn’t sing. Haha!)

It wouldn’t be until years later, when I was studying the text of Le Fantôme de l’Opéra again that it all came back in a flash. The Persian…arguably the most influential and significant character in Leroux’s novel. He is written out of the musical adaptation for reasons of keeping the plot concise, I can only assume, but he is the character that is responsible for most if not all of the action in the novel. He is the one who guides Raoul down to the Phantom’s lair to save Christine. He is an intimate friend of Erik, the Phantom. And, he is only ever referred to as The Persian. How could I forget this character? And if the text of this novel was stamped on my heart…then perhaps a Persian man was there too, long before I ever met my very own Persian man in real-life.

References to Persian rugs and artifacts abound in Victorian literature too. They’re seriously everywhere. Was I perhaps, then, being led toward SS throughout my entire life?

It’s funny how Fate works. I remember vividly that in high school, I was constantly looking for signs from the universe that my crush was my future husband. If his name was whispered in my vicinity, or I saw an object we had talked about or that was somehow associated with him, I took it as this notice from Fate that yes, in fact we would end up together. But, needless to say, we didn’t, and in the years before I met SS, I often wondered what the point of all those signs was. Now, I realize, I was looking at the wrong signs; I was being distracted, led away from realizing that a Persian man had always played a role in my life, from childhood, and that one Persian man in particular would become the love and light of my life.

There are tricky and problematic things about Iran, no question…but now that I know a thing or two about Persian people and their culture, I can say that they are warm and genuine, caring and good, and I am very lucky to have a number of them in my life. Ramin, of course, with his voice that soothes me when I’m stressed. And, my fiancé especially, whose very presence in my life is something I consider a real miracle.

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

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Wednesday Words ~ Spotlight on “Sunscreen”

Hello dear Readers and happy hump day!

We’re already at the middle of the week… Can you believe it?  I’m extremely grateful for the fact that this week seems to be flying by because there is just too much excitement in my life at the moment to sit at work all day!  I’m getting restless, to say the least.

Welcome to my first ever Wednesday Words post.  I’m not going to lie to you all and pretend that this sort of post is going to become a weekly thing here on the blog, because Lord knows that I find it hard to do weekly updates, what with being torn between reading and writing reviews for the 2.5 million books I have in my room.  Having said that, I was thinking that whenever I have a particular passage or quote or song lyric I’d like to share, I’m going to try to do it on a Wednesday (what can I say, I’m a fan of alliteration!) and go into greater depth analyzing the quote in detail.  So, look out for more Wednesday Words posts in the future (if not consistently)!

Today’s spotlight is on a song that I recently stumbled upon in this great Spotify playlist called “Your Favorite Coffeehouse”.  I’m new to Spotify – I have an iPod which I update regularly, so I never felt the need to use the Spotify app – and I am loving it!  Although my iPod is great for listening to music at the gym or on the subway, it doesn’t allow me to discover new music or artists, and I find it hard to listen to music for too long with headphones, so I wanted a means of listening to music out loud from my work computer.  Spotify allows me the perfect opportunity to do that, and I’ve already found a bunch of new songs that I am really fond of and would’ve never heard otherwise.  It also has some great playlist collections, like the Coffeehouse one which is absolutely brilliant, and I was able to save entire albums from artists I adore, like HAIM (Something To Tell You is THE album of the year, in my opinion) and Bruce Springsteen.  I swear, there is nothing Spotify doesn’t have and I love having all this music at my fingertips!

One of those amazing and new (to me) songs is called “Sunscreen” by Ira Wolf.  I have to admit, I know nothing about Ira Wolf.  Although I saved a bunch of her other songs on my Spotify account, I haven’t gotten around to listening to them just yet…because I have been listening to “Sunscreen” on repeat ever since I first heard it.  Honestly, I made a playlist called “On repeat…” with just this one song so that I can listen to it over and over, uninterrupted.  It is just the loveliest little song – so romantic and simple and easy to listen to that I can’t stop.  I latched onto the lyrics as soon as I heard them because they so eloquently and creatively emphasize the routine, mundane and simplistic aspects of love.  Love is about being accepted, of course, but also about having that companion who may be flawed but perfectly complements you in every way.  Love is about having someone with you for the everyday moments, for the little events and occurrences that no one else can possibly fathom or appreciate.  I think Ira Wolf hits the nail on the head with her lyrics about wanting someone to be there every single day, to support and guide her, and to put in that effort to be a true friend and lover.  The lyrics speak for themselves, so I am going to include them here and highlight the portions that touched me most profoundly.

“Sunscreen” is a beautiful song, a work of poetry put to music, and I sincerely encourage you all to have a listen!

Enjoy your Wednesday and look out for more song recommendations coming soon!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

*Note: This post was in no way sponsored by Spotify…trust me, I’m not enough of a music aficionado to have Spotify pay me any particular attention – haha!

Somewhere – #JNGWatches & #JNGListens

“There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us. Peace and quiet and open air, wait for us, somewhere.” – West Side Story

This is a subject I don’t really want to talk about, but I feel I have to.

I am one of the extremely privileged FEW who has never had to deal with severe racism. I’m thoroughly Canadian, born and raised, and I have never been discriminated against because of my culture or physical appearance or anything of that nature. But, we’ve all been following the news lately, and racism is a very prevalent part of our society’s culture. In Canada, I think we’re a bit better off, but every now and then there are those stories of people facing prejudice and hatred because of the place they were born, the beliefs they ascribe to, the clothes they wear, any number of things. I’m not qualified to speak about these specific issues because, like I said, I’ve never been in the position to be discriminated against in this way. However, I can state my opinion, which is that racial, religious, discrimination of any kind is wrong, horrible and detrimental to our overall society and well-being.

This past Monday night, I watched West Side Story in its entirety for the first time ever. It is my mom’s favourite musical and has been since she was a child, and although I’ve always been familiar with the songs and the story (especially considering that it was derived from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), I can’t say I’ve ever seen all of the scenes of the movie adaptation. On Monday, when I stumbled upon the film on Turner Classic Movies, I sat myself down and watched all of it…and ended up crying a few times along the way. Now, I should say that I’m not really a crier – a movie has to be downright depressing to get me to shed a tear. I’m much more likely to cry while reading a book because I’ve journeyed with the characters for longer. Anyway, something about West Side Story really got to me. Maybe it’s the fact that Maria doesn’t die at the end like her counterpart Juliet and is instead forced to live without her newfound love Tony. Or, perhaps and probably more likely, it’s the fact that Tony dies for absolutely NO GOOD REASON. Discussions about gun violence are prevalent enough nowadays that I don’t have to get into that. But what I do also find ludicrous is that Tony is murdered in cold blood simply because he is hated by another group of people. The Sharks despise the Jets, the Puerto Ricans and the “real Americans” just can’t get along, and so a young man with his entire life, a fine future full of love and happiness ahead of him has to die. This seems utterly senseless to me.

Like I said, I’ve never faced true discrimination. I’m incredibly lucky in that way. But, I have experienced hatred and racism and prejudice on a smaller scale, even within my closest circles. There are a lot of people in this world who refuse to accept those who don’t think exactly like them. My father, mother, brother and I are pretty open and honest about our beliefs and this isn’t always easy for us because not everyone, sometimes not even those people who are supposed to know and love us best, chooses to respect our opinions. Furthermore, my fiancé is from the Middle East, as is my mom’s family, and that carries its own difficulties and sources of misunderstanding. It’s all a little pathetic in my opinion because I pride myself in being open-minded under all circumstances – I was raised to never be judgmental. But fine, I can handle if someone wants to judge and criticize me – I just think it’s sad and is going to ruin what little peace and dignity there is left in our world.

What am I trying to say here? Well, I’m not trying to get all preachy, although it seems like I have. All I want to say is that I watched West Side Story this week and I loved it…but I also hated it, because fiction has become far too real recently, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is learning from the stories around them anymore. And in that sense, I think the readers of all sorts of fiction are starting to fail themselves these days.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

No Inspo

I have to admit, I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post today at all. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed that I didn’t tweet any specific #JNGReads or #JNGListens quotes this week. This is the second week that I haven’t consistently tweeted a meaningful quote or line every single day, and the fact is bothering me more than a little. I hadn’t intended to draw attention to this today – instead I thought it might be best just to skip my weekly blog post and hopefully find a collection of quotes beautiful enough to warrant sharing this week. But, then I remembered that the point of this blog is to update you all on what I’m reading at the moment, and more importantly on what I’m feeling about what I’m reading at that same moment. The whole point of my #JNGReads/#JNGListens initiative was to take you into my mind, to give you a glimpse of the passages and scenes from the books I was reading that stuck with me and left an imprint on my heart. So, it stands to reason then that if I’m not posting any quotes, it’s because nothing is standing out to me in the literature I’m encountering at this time. I’m reading, but nothing I’m reading is that incredible, groundbreaking or memorable to me.

I’m currently about halfway through Emily Giffin’s forthcoming novel First Comes Love. While I enjoyed Something Borrowed, Something Blue and Love The One You’re With, I haven’t read a work by Giffin in a very long time. I was gifted this book by a friend of mine, and so I decided that I certainly couldn’t pass up the opportunity to delve into Giffin’s fiction once again, especially since the book was so conveniently in front of me.

The story and characters are pleasant enough, but nothing about the plot has really made an impact or impression on me, and this is most definitely why I haven’t had any quotes to share on my Twitter recently. The writing style is enjoyable and flows well, but none of the lines say anything unique or describe emotions and ideas uniquely enough to warrant a mention. Perhaps I should start quoting lines from the novel this week to give you an idea of how ordinary they are – this isn’t meant to be critical or condemnatory necessarily, as I am having a good time reading the book, but I just want to defend my lack of inspiration and excitement at the moment.

I think what I mostly want to represent in this post is the fact that not all books are earth shattering or monumental. Sometimes you’ll come across a book that’s just fun and light and refreshing, but that doesn’t really stick with you all that much. I find that incredibly discouraging, but at the same time, I think I need to start coming to terms with this fact. Otherwise, the act of reading becomes less relaxed, more pressure is put on every single work to be a favourite – and since that isn’t realistic, it’s best not to feel such anxiety to love and adore and rave about every single book one reads.

I will review First Comes Love thoroughly when I do happen to finish it – but for now just know that, silent though I am right now, I am reading.

(And, if you’re at all interested, I have been sharing passages and lines from my own writing and works of fiction on Twitter every now and then – so follow along if you want to get a sense of what #JNGWrites!)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Black Hearts – #JNGListens

If you follow along with me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed that midway through this week I started quoting lyrics from some popular rock songs. These lyrics were selected from the songs played by two of my favourite rock groups at the concert I went to exactly a week ago. Obviously, you’ve heard it here time and time again, I’m a huge fan of concerts – I love the experience of watching my favourite musicians perform live and witnessing their artistic genius come to life before me. I’ve attended MANY rock concerts, but I’ve mostly only seen male artists (such as my all time favourite, Bruce Springsteen, quite recently). I’ve been desperately wanting to see a specific list of female rock stars for the longest time, and last Sunday I was able to check two groups off my Concert Bucket List.

Joan Jett and the BlackHearts Heart Concert

Last Sunday, I got to see Joan Jett and the Blackhearts open for Heart.

Now, I know a lot of people find it funny that I like these particular artists so much, considering that most of their music was released before I was even born. I absolutely love all of their songs, though, and I chose to select my #JNGListens quotes for this week from two of my favourite songs.

“Yeah, my, my such a sweet thing

I wanna do everything” – Crimson and Clover, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

“Come on home, girl

He said with a smile….

Try to understand…

He’s a magic man” – Magic Man, Heart

Although these two songs are definitely my favourites by Joan Jett and Heart, I have so many other favourites that I can sing along to as well, such as I Hate Myself for Loving You (Joan Jett), Alone and What About Love (Heart). What I didn’t expect, however, was for the songs to be performed so well. Joan Jett has an incredible presence: she’s naturally really badass, but she also comes across as genuine and excited to engage her fans. As for Heart, Ann Wilson has an amazing voice and she sang effortlessly. Nancy Wilson is a great guitarist, and it was so cool to see these females get a crowd so excited and engaged. I loved the fact that the rock music was just as hard and edgy as if a male artist was performing (and why shouldn’t it be?), and I had fun dancing and singing along for hours.

This is my first of what I hope will be many concerts showcasing female rock bands. Next on my list is definitely Pat Benatar – what can I say, I love my 80’s music! 😉

❥ ❥

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Once Upon a Dream – #JNGListens

~ “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream….

But if I know you, I know what you’ll do,

You’ll love me at once / the way you did once upon a dream.”

~ Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

I’m posting this week’s #JNGListens entry a touch early because I have plans for another blog post this weekend. I realized when I was thinking about and mapping out these two posts that they treat very similar themes, and so I thought, why not post them both in one weekend…but that, of course, takes some manipulation and some strategic moving around of my regular #JNGReads / #JNGListens post. So, instead of getting my quote selection of the week on Sunday, I’m delivering it up to you all today. And stay tuned for another blog post later this weekend as well!

Today’s quote, or I should say quotes, is a long set of lyrics from the song Once Upon a Dream, featured in the popular Disney movie Sleeping Beauty. Now, I have to admit, I’m not a huge Sleeping Beauty fan in the least – honestly, I find the story a little bit boring (the main character is, after all, asleep for most of the action) and I’ve never been overly fond of the older Disney movies – the old-school animation creeps me out a little. But, for whatever reason, when SS and I were staying at the Hotel Victoria in downtown Toronto last weekend, this was the song that was stuck in my head on repeat, and I couldn’t stop humming it for the whole weekend…and actually, yes, I am listening to it right now.

Why was I so touched by this song? I think it may have something to do with the book I just finished reading and was in the middle of last weekend (Spoiler Alert: this is what my second post of the weekend will be about), but I think it was also largely due to the fact that my mind was totally preoccupied with my incredible boyfriend. SS’s birthday just passed on Tuesday, and so I’ve been ridiculously grateful for and totally in awe of his existence for the entire week, beginning with our hotel stay last weekend. There is a moment every single day where I am stunned into silence by the fact that such a perfect (for me at least! haha), caring, loving and genuine man exists and that Fate or the Universe or whoever decided to gift him to me. I feel lucky beyond words for this.

And, I suppose, the song Aurora (the original Sleeping Beauty) sings about her Prince Charming spoke to me because of my (healthy, I promise) obsession with and overwhelming love for SS. I found myself listening to the song and thinking, like Aurora, that I must’ve encountered SS before, that he must’ve been a fixture in my forever green heart long before I sat across from him at our university. (Sidenote: You can read the story of how we met here.) I never expected to meet him on that day, and I don’t think I consciously thought throughout the exchange, Oh, this is him! This is the man I’ve been waiting and longing for! But, when I think back on the events, I remember that there was something between us as soon as we locked eyes on each other: there was a definite spark, that feeling of warmth and fuzziness I’m always going on and on about. I just knew, in an instant, that I had to give him my number when he asked. I didn’t know anything at all about him, but I felt comfortable and at ease, and I never had a single doubt about my interest in him. I was intrigued from the start.

Why is that? Listening to Aurora’s song has helped me arrive at an answer to the questions I’ve been asking myself for more than two years now: Where did SS come from, how did he find me and why did we have such a profound and irresistible connection? I want to say, especially based on the quote above, that I’d already met SS, in a dream, a fantasy, in the world of my imagination. I’d seen him somewhere before, in my romantic mind’s eye, and I was searching for his physical embodiment, for his representation in the real world, for years and years without even realizing it. If there is such a thing as soul mates, which I think there is, SS must be mine, because my heart recognized him before my mind even did. And isn’t that what Aurora is talking about? She’s dreamed about her prince for so long that she knows him at first sight, and she knows exactly what he’ll do: love her purely and without limit.

I think that we are meant to meet certain people in our lives and Fate has a large hand in bringing them to us or us to them. But I also think that there’s something to be said for human instinct, for that love-at-first-sight sort of feeling. Maybe we’ve met all the people we’re supposed to know and love in our dreams before…and seeing them in real-life is only an extension of the wonderful and fantastic world of dreaming?!

It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

“That was The River.” – #JNGListens

*Note: This post was written on Wednesday, the day after the Bruce Springsteen concert in Toronto, so my reaction and reflections were fresh and immediate.*

I’ve gushed about Bruce Springsteen here on the blog many times before. I’ve talked about how amazing I think his music is, how much fun it is to go to his concerts with my father, and even about how much he reminds me of a certain Victorian literary hero I’m quite fond of. I’ve used lyrics from his songs several times on Twitter as part of my #JNGListens posts. But, one thing I haven’t had the opportunity to do is write a detailed post about the experience of going to one of his concerts, about the sheer brilliance and scope of a 3-plus hour performance by a veteran rocker. There’s nothing quite like being in the room with a seasoned performer, one who doesn’t need any frills or gimmicks to get the crowd excited.

This Tuesday February 2nd, I had the chance to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform for the sixth time in my life. Obviously, I enjoy Springsteen concerts more than a little, and I’ve even travelled to Hamilton and Buffalo with my dad to see the exact same performance, during the exact same tour, multiple times. I would say that the Wrecking Ball Tour concert in Hamilton was hands down, without doubt the BEST concert I have ever seen in my life – and I’ve seen a lot of concerts, from boy bands like One Direction (NOT ashamed!) to hard rockers like ACDC. But, there’s just something about a Springsteen concert that’s unlike any other show you can go to. Like I said before, the man doesn’t use or need frills for the show to be enjoyable; his music speaks for itself, and nothing portrays that more than the fact that, on Tuesday, Springsteen sauntered casually onto the stage with the lights on in the beginning of the show, not even using any introductory music or huge light show or anything like that. He didn’t need it because we were all just excited to see him and hear him, and unlike so many artists nowadays, Springsteen’s voice, lyrics and artistry are enough to make the show spectacular. No cheesy dance moves required!

I do have to include a little disclaimer here though: The River is not my favourite Springsteen CD. That accolade would have to go to the album Magic, which I know is not as popular as some of his more iconic CDs (I’m thinking Born in the U.S.A. as an example), but which I think is totally brilliant and a true masterpiece. I could listen to the CD over and over, and I actually have done that in the car many times late at night. There’s nothing quite like listening to Radio Nowhere while driving on the highway!

Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed The River Tour 2016! The River isn’t Springsteen’s most cohesive or thematic album, but it has some really catchy and touching songs. My favourite is probably Out In The Street, because lines like the one below are just so relevant to life:

“When I’m out in the street / I talk the way I wanna talk.”

– Out In The Street, Bruce Springsteen

During the concert, I also experienced a new appreciation for certain songs on The River that I hadn’t really paid attention to when listening to the CD. Springsteen’s performance of Point Blank was incredible, toned down and moving, and I would have to say that my favourite performance of the night was Drive All Night, which is a new frontrunner for my affections on this album.

The River is a 2 hour CD in itself, but of course, Springsteen didn’t stop there, and he still performed an hour long encore. During this incredible spectacle, Springsteen finally played one of my all-time favourite songs, Brilliant Disguise. This song basically sums up why I love Springsteen so much: it is pretty much a poem. And it’s a really well written poem at that. Brilliant Disguise tells a story, one that isn’t necessarily uncommon but that is treated with a unique clarity and honesty by Springsteen. I’ve known every single lyric since I was in high school, and it was so special to see Springsteen perform it live. It was definitely a Bucket List moment.

Basically, this concert gets a 10 out of 10 from me, as would any Springsteen concert. This man, even as he gets “older”, is a force to be reckoned with, and probably any person who appreciates true songwriting ability and commitment to art would follow this man down to any river he chose. He’s just that good.

Springsteen #1 Springsteen #2

Springsteen crowd surfing because he’s basically a god.

Springsteen crowd surfing because he’s basically a god.

My weekend advice: Get out in the street everyone, and listen to some Springsteen as loud as you can!

JNG

Girl with a Green (Rocker) Heart

my green heart

The Holidays – #JNGListens

Happy Holidays Dear Readers!

I know there are technically 5 more days until Christmas, but let’s be real, the holidays are already in full swing…especially because so many different religious holidays have already happened and secular Christmas is booming!

I’m personally beyond excited for work to be done, family to be over and delicious food to be on the table! I also love presents…giving them, and okay, also receiving them, and I am so excited for the multiple exchanges that will take place in the next few days! I have tons of holiday plans, from family dinners to date nights with my boyfriend to a trip to Niagara Falls to celebrate New Year’s Eve! It’s going to be a crazy, whirlwind of a season, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Because of the Christmas chaos (which I love beyond words), I’m probably not going to be posting many #JNGListens or #JNGReads quotes on Twitter for the next two weeks…but I figure everyone deserves a vacation, and you all will forgive me. I’m hoping to write a few blog posts in the coming weeks, but I’m not sure how regular and routine they will be, so this is my apology-in-advance post. I will have tons of updates once the holidays are over though!

And, despite how busy everything will be, I am planning to post many more pictures of Christmas trees for the #JNGChristmasTreeSeries on my Instagram, as well as many photos of my holiday activities! I’ll leave you with two of these photos now, as well as a festive quote for your enjoyment!

“It’s the holiday season…”

Downtown Christmas Eaton Centre Christmas

Happy Holidays to you all! ❤

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Introductions – #JNGListens

“…no thoughts within her head, but thoughts of joy! No dreams within her heart but dreams of love!” – The Phantom of the Opera

In most relationships, there’s always that tricky moment when you have to introduce your new love to your first (and usually former) love. This is exactly what I had to do yesterday. In my case, however, it wasn’t a situation where I wanted my current boyfriend, SS, to hate my first love and feel competitive. On the contrary, I still love my first love too, and so I desperately wanted them to get along and learn to love each other.

If you read Friday’s blog post, you’ll know what I’m talking about – my first love, the love I developed from childhood and have held onto for so many years, is not another person, but rather the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera. In Friday’s blog post, I detailed how truly important and formative the musical was for me, and how I continue to give it an extremely important place in my green heart.

So, naturally, when I brought SS with me yesterday to see the play, I knew that it was his first time ever encountering the story, the music, the characters, all of it, and I so badly wanted him to love it, to see in it exactly what I saw when I was a child. SS and I have similar taste in most things (except for graphic novels and Star Wars, really), so I was quite confident that he would find the play very interesting and intriguing. The problem was that I myself hadn’t seen the new production of POTO, complete with new and updated set designs, and I had no idea how the actors would portray my favourite roles…and, perhaps more importantly, if their voices would be adequate to make the music sound as perfect as I know it to be.

I’m happy to say that both SS and I were truly impressed by the whole production, and SS has been eagerly asking me questions about the story and expressing interest in seeing the musical again soon! 😀 YAY!

Let me start by saying that the new set was absolutely, beyond words INCREDIBLE! It was so unbelievably intricate, with this sort of spinning design that allowed for multiple different sets to be hidden all within the one stage. The set designers expertly recreated so many different rooms of my beloved Opéra Garnier: the Phantom’s lair was dark and sinister, but also full of candles, and luxurious burgundy and black fabrics, especially fitting to a Parisian style; the manager’s office was richly upholstered with gold and red hues; the roof of the opera house was complete with gold statues and even seemed to be delicately accented with a bit of snow. My favourite set had to be the one used during the Masquerade scene: the entire set was transformed into a room of mirrors, very similar to the one that can actually be found in the Opéra Garnier. There were golden statues all around, which reflected brilliantly in the mirrors, and it really brought me back to my time at the Opéra Garnier. I was so ridiculously impressed by how everything moved and operated to allow the actors to move effortlessly between the different parts of the set, and to allow my friend the Phantom to play tricks from above and below and all around.

So, the visual aspect of the play was a HUGE hit, especially with SS who is so interested in set design and has a very artistic nature. The chandelier was also newly designed, and it was sparkly and full of diamonds…and when it fell from the ceiling, with flashes of fire and light, it was truly dazzling! I admit, I missed the old design of my favourite chandelier, but the new one definitely got the job done as well!

And what of the actors who played my three most favourite roles? The entire cast was absolutely incredible (shout out to Carlotta and Piangi, as well as Messieurs Firmin and André, who were truly hilarious!), and the actors who played the Phantom (Chris Mann) and Raoul (Storm Lineberger) hit the notes exactly how I wanted them to – they evoked the exact feelings I was hoping for, and they played opposite each other really well. The audience really got the sense that the Phantom and Raoul are totally different men, each with something unique and intriguing to offer to their ingénue. The actress who played Christine was Celia Hottenstein at this performance, and she was excellent as well – she had a powerful but delicate and lovely voice, and she really shone during Think of Me and Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. She perfectly nailed the combination of innocence and strength that is so crucial to Christine’s character, and I thought she looked very elegant in all of her incredible costumes!

Overall, I’d say that the production was a hit! Obviously, I have my favourite Phantoms (Colm Wilkinson forever and always, and recently Ramin Karimloo) and Christines (particularly Sierra Boggess, but also Rebecca Caine), and I will never stop hearing their voices when I play the famous songs in my head. But, every new production has a new cast of wonderful actors, and I was not disappointed with yesterday’s performances whatsoever! I was very impressed and so so pleased…and the main thing is that SS was moved and totally in awe of the whole production! I think he very quickly became a Phan!

And that’s all that matters to me, in the end! For the first time in my life, I allowed the man I love to experience and become acquainted with the music and story that has made me into the woman he loves. It was a risk, but it all went perfectly…and now, I will never have any passions or loves to hide from the man I hope to have beside me forever. As my #JNGListens quote from today suggests, there was so much love in that theatre last night for me, and all of my hopes and dreams were totally fulfilled!

The Phantom of the Opera

With a full heart,

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart