Did you know there's another version of Phantom of the Opera – and it wasn't written by Andrew Lloyd Webber?

18 March 2019, 15:25 | Updated: 21 March 2019, 11:58

By Helena Asprou

The story of 'Phantom' is most famous in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation – but did you know that another composer wrote a score inspired by Gaston Leroux's novel?

Based on the French novel Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, the silent 1925 horror film The Phantom of the Opera is a dark tale of unrequited love, murder and mayhem.

In the movie, American actor Lon Chaney stars as a disfigured Phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House and goes to extreme lengths to make the woman he loves a star – but his actions come at a terrible cost.

The book was later adapted into a musical by English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, with hits including ‘All I Ask of You’, ‘The Music of the Night’ and ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here’.

However, unknown to many, the story also caught the attention of another composer, Roy Budd. Budd was a jazz pianist who was captivated by the 1925 film and set about writing a soundtrack for it in the 1990s.

The score was set to be performed in London in 1993, but when Budd died suddenly, the premiere was cancelled. The score was only performed for the first time many years later – at the London Coliseum in 2017.

This month there's a rare chance to hear Budd's music when it's performed at the Barbican Centre in London on Monday 18 March by the Docklands Sinfonia.

To find out more about the work, Classic FM caught up with Roy's widow, Sylvia Budd, who has worked to preserve and promote her husband's music.

Phantom of the Opera
Phantom of the Opera. Picture: Borkowski

Roy Budd: from self-taught pianist to prolific composer

Born in the 1940s, Roy Budd started out as a self-taught jazz pianist.

Sylvia told us: “He used to sit at the piano for at least four to ten hours a day – the piano was his first love. He really enjoyed jazz and was only 16 years old when he started playing professionally.

“When he was young, a journalist once asked him what his ambition was, and he simply said: ‘to reach the pedals!’

"Roy started out as a performer – a self-taught pianist, and then he became a melodist.”

Keen to make it as a composer, Roy Budd wrote extensively for film, including the scores for Get Carter (1971), Solider Blue (1970), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) and The Big Bang (1987).

He also recorded two albums of film music with the London Symphony Orchestra in the early ‘80s, featuring the theme tunes from Star Wars, E.T., and Alien.

Roy Budd plays the piano as a 7-year-old boy
Roy Budd plays the piano as a 7-year-old boy. Picture: Getty

But Budd’s final work was a symphonic score for The Phantom of the Opera. Sylvia said: “When he was a young boy, Roy had a passion for [that film]he absolutely adored it. He used to collect a lot of the magazine clippings, so you can imagine his joy when he was finally able to buy the real video tape with the music.

“Even back then, he knew he was going to write a score for The Phantom of the Opera, but there was a lot of technical work to do with the [video] tape. The film is 93 minutes long and it had to be 25 frames per second.”

The Phantom of the Opera: Barbican debut and musical highlights

Despite the resounding success of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score, Roy never actually watched his musical adaptation, Sylvia said, as it was “wise for him not to confuse the two versions when writing the music”.

“People know The Phantom of the Opera well – the story is extremely famous. Of course, there’s that exciting moment in the music when the chandelier falls down, or when the Phantom takes off his mask, but when you’re watching the film you still don’t know it’s coming – people are always in shock!

“This concert would have meant a lot to Roy; it was part of his transition. It would have been his way of saying to people that he was writing something a bit different.

“This is going to be a wonderfully special event at the Barbican. It’s what Roy should have done 25 years ago – it’s what he would have wanted."

Roy Budd's Phantom of the Opera will be performed tonight, Monday 18 March, at London's Barbican. Proceeds from tonight's ticket sales will be going to charity to raise money for Rotary’s Purple4Polio Campaign to End Polio Now and Forever.