Pantin' at the Opera
starring Wishbone as Raoul de Chagny
First Season, Episode 37, Public Broadcasting System, 1995
Special thanks to Tim Rauser for sending me a video of this episode of Wishbone. From what I researched on the internet, I think this episode first aired either some time during the autumn of 1995 or during the spring 1996. From what I researched on the famous Jack Russell terrier, the episodes are not strictly like Reading Rainbow. It appears Wishbone has adventures that coincide with books he reads in the library. Tim had paused the tape during his adventures and taped strictly the Phantom storyline, which is fine. It just means I am not a good resource on what happens outside of Wishbone's imagination while he is reading The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I understand Wishbone always stars as one of the characters, always one that children can most easily understand. In this case, he is Raoul de Chagny.
Wishbone goes backstage to see Christine and hears her taking lessons. He thinks it is great until he realizes this teacher loves her. Wishbone gets jealous. Then the shadow disappears, but Christine denies that anyone was in there when Wishbone asks her about it. She instructs him to leave her be and never mention anything about what he may have seen or heard.
Later on, Christine goes to rehearsal as Wishbone watches. Things get suspicious when Christine seems to disappear into thin air. Wishbone jumps out of his private box onto the stage and finds a trap door. He goes down to find her.
Wishbone hears organ music and follows the sounds into the Phantom's lair. The Phantom laughs as Wishbone is trapped in a cage. He expresses his anger over his lifelong mistreatment and reveals his plans to make Christine his bride. Erik's mask is then removed, showing a "horror" face that has been majorly toned down for toddlers (of course, no problem). Wishbone buries his face in his paws and says, "Ewwww!" as the Phantom asks Christine what she thinks of this, her new life with this ugliness. She cries and says, "You poor man." The Phantom is moved by her pity and weeps that he has been so cruel. Christine kisses him on the forehead, which moves him to release her and Wishbone. Christine promises to visit him often.
I found Wishbone as Raoul appropriate. I have said many times that I do not view Raoul as the swashbuckling hero in this story. I do not say that because I dislike him. Leroux himself realized he needs help, thus the daroga. Raoul is just as innocent as Christine, sometimes I think even more so. He is no match for Erik any more than Wishbone would be a match against the dragon Smaug from the animated film The Hobbit. Wishbone is a perfect animal totem for Raoul, as is Smaug for Erik (down to that missing scale, if you know what I mean).
It is only about twenty minutes long plus the target audience is very young, but it still keeps very well in the spirit of Leroux. There are actually some real opera arias in this, always a plus in educational videos. I think it shows the characters extremely well in ways that children could understand. (Some adults might need help, too, based on some comments I hear and read at times.) The daroga is not necessary this time as it gets to the fact that Christine is the real hero. She saves Raoul from certain death and Erik from himself with an act of kindness and a simple kiss.
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