Synopsis of The Phantom of the Orchestra
After an introduction and instructions by the narrator, the orchestra begins the
program with the opening of Act II from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.
As this piece reaches its final climax, the Phantom, a shadowy figure in mask and black
cape, appears. In an operatic recitative he explains his problem: the
orchestra's constant playing is keeping him from getting any sleep. With his assistant,
Gridley (played by a child age 8-11), the Phantom ponders his problem in an aria . . .
(Se Vuol Ballare,
lyrics). He comes up with a diabolical
scheme: If he can somehow manage to make the orchestra play wrong notes and/or out of tune,
the audience will cancel all their subscriptions; this will of course bankrupt the
orchestra, resulting in blessed silence.
Mr. Phipps, the Orchestra's Manager, hires the famous detective, Inspector Shamrock
Jones, to figure out why the orchestra is suddenly having so many problems in its
performances. The manager explains that the rehearsals sound fine, it's the concerts where
everything goes wrong. The orchestra (in "rehearsal") plays the Bach Air for the G
Assured by the presence of the great Shamrock Jones, the orchestra then attempts to
perform the Air. But the Phantom has written wrong notes in the percussion part, and the
concert is ruined.
In response to the sabotage, Inspector Jones locks up the sheet music. After a perfect
rehearsal of Meditation from Thais, the orchestra attempts another
performance. But this time, the Phantom has put grease in the scroll of the concertmaster's
violin, and he/she plays so out of tune that the concert is ruined yet again.
Inspector Jones stands an all night watch to try to catch the Phantom. But again, the
Phantom is too clever for them; he places a suspense novel on the conductor's
night stand. The conductor stays up all night reading it, and the next day he/she falls
asleep on the podium, ruining the concert once more.
This last disaster results in the orchestra announcing its termination. The Phantom,
hearing the news, sings a triumphal aria (Aprite un Po' Quegli Occhi from
Marriage of Figaro) in which he revels in both his own cleverness and
in how the hated musicians will all have to find new employment. But Inspector Shamrock
Jones finally catches up with the Phantom, and a chase ensues during the playing of the
Last Movement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony or Berlioz' Roman Carnival
Inspector Jones unmasks the Phantom, revealing the mystery to all. The Phantom
disappears back into the catacombs, but not before Inspector Jones resolves the Phantom's
problem with the aid of some earplugs; they work well enough, but not without causing one
disaster, and not so well that we shouldn't expect a sequel!