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Final Das Phantom Shows in Hamburg
Memories from Hildegard
Evening Show -- Farewell show -- After-Show-Party
We came back from our walk, deposited our German shepherd-Berner Sennhund - Mix in the car and started for the next turn.

We used the bureau of a friend at the 'Neue Flora' as dressing-room, then came out as a normal 'phan' and 'The Phantom' and were caught by another phan. He told us he had seen the show for 42 times and asked for a photo with me. He said he was sure he would get no photo with the real phantom performer, but for his album it would do with me. IJB, there you see: I'm your new double!

We hung around in the little theatre shop till it was time to enter the foyer again. Champagne and orange juice was served there. We took some and earned first looks. It's always funny to see people react when they see you are used to drinking something with a half-mask on. That's the trick to seem real: you have to practice. There is no sense in playing a role when people can see you are acting. That's the difference to many other phantom doubles that evening - and there were some - that I've made my own, well-fitting half-mask and run around with it half a holiday to get used with it. And to get used with it is very important when you want to wear it for hours. And I wore it for nearly ten hours that day.

We spoke with other phans, walked around and felt weird. Anticipating a very last show is a strange thing to do. I spoke with a fellow (Hi, Frank!!) who wanted to write an internet report about the last days of Das Phantom der Oper in Hamburg and who told me he never saw
IJB smile when taking his applause. I cant agree with him, every time we had our seats in the first row we saw him smile then except one time when the whole staff had caught the cold. Then he really looked exhausted and ill, but who would not, having the cold but singing like always, more shows than usual, 'cause the alternate actors were ill...To smile or not to smile...it was this happy smile on his face at the end of the show that showed me first that IJB liked the phantom part, that it meant something to him.
But then it was time for the final show.

It had been very, very difficult to get tickets for the very last show. Thanks to mismanagement there were empty seats in each category while phans sat at home, crying because having no ticket for the Dernière. Oh Stella, you'll never learn!

There were speeches, i.e. from Mr. von der Heyde, there was the award of platinum discs to Peter Hofmann and Anna Maria Kaufmann, Germanys first phantom performers. They didn't let them sing - why not? We would have enjoyed it! And then the show started.
What's to say about that very last show?
I think, everything I wished to say about our great Hamburg stage crew was said before. There's nothing to add. They were great, they put all their heart in it. They sang with a tear in their eye - and even more tears in the eyes of the audience.
I sat there, enjoying -sniff!!- IJB as Phantom for the very last time. Naturally it had been impossible to get tickets for our usual first row middle seats, so we now were seated far away on the very right side, and the bigger distance to the stage didn't allow us to be part of the story right the way we used to be. Sitting as near as we normally did, it always seemed to us we somehow were involved in the story... and it allowed us to see IJB's wonderful miming.
I still don't know his secret, how exactly he did it, but IJB always showed Erik, the phantom, as a quite normal human being, suffering the pain of getting outcaste and being repulsed by all his contemporaries. He never showed the phantom as a nutter or mad serial killer. He showed this vulnerable, touchy and shy man with his great ability to both rage and deepest love and let us take a look inside this 'worldwide heart' of Leroux' Erik. I always thought he never acted as the phantom Webber describes but more as the one Leroux wrote about. It was the same with his singing: You always could hear the tears Erik shed in Leroux' book whenever he was with Christine - IJB then always sang with those tears in his voice.
Great. Just great. And the show went on, act one, act two.

Funny detail: Michael Nicholson, the matinee's phantom which I shot with my rose, acted as Policeman. When told to shoot, he shaked with a very little, ridiculous childish
voice his question about the right time to shoot. We all laughed - thanks, Michael, for making us laugh though we all were sad...

It was a wonderful farewell show - but it was a farewell show. So for me still nothing compares to the evening show on Friday, June 29th.

For me this show was the best one I ever saw. Then we had something to look forward to, now we were sad, knowing it was all over. Then we enjoyed it with nothing but the orchestra between us and the actors, now we were banned far away on seats at the verge of the theatre. No, there was no comparison possible.

But you were great,
Mr. Bourg, and I know from a photograph in the newspaper you tried your usual smile when taking your applause, and we all enjoyed the final duet with Colby Thomas.
And then you were gone, and we all missed you, for nobody saw you later on the party. But more about that later.

We stayed a little bit, saw the people leaving and then realized there was an interview with Peter Hofmann and Anna Maria Kaufmann just there some steps beyond. Well, now, I've had some eddings with me - a pencil you normally can write on nearly everything with - and I was masked - so I stumbled into the beginning of the interview, interrupted the preparations of the journalists and asked Peter for an autograph. He was
very kind and scribbled it on my mask (very difficult to do, I know). Anna stood beside, smiling, so I asked her for an autograph, too, and she also was very friendly and scribbled it for me. Thanks a lot!!

One of the television teams went over to me to ask me for an interview. Ahm, well, why not? So we waited till the official interviews were over, then they came for me. Oh people! I didn't expect them to ask such stupid questions, but they've got stupid answers, too. Somebody told me they sent it next day in a regional TV. Each one who saw it: Ahm, it hasn't been me...

Then we all were ushered away. One last glance in our beloved, well known theatre, sniff, and then this was over, too. And we went for the buffet.

It's a funny thing to stand there with a plate in one hand, a glass in the other and people are looking for you are masked and they just can't believe you will be able to eat and drink with that mask on. They all waited for me to take it off, like other phantom doubles did. But the original phantom would have caused a panic when unmasking on a party, so I didn't do so also. And so I had my own, little show.

We hung around a long time, searching for
IJB and the others but didn't find them. Hours later we met Thomas Schulze, a very well known, great phantom performer and I still had my edding with me, so I asked him for an autograph, too. He laughed and scribbled on my mask, too, now there were three names on it and a smiling lady behind it. And we still looked for IJB.

Then we found out he was in a separate room with most of the other performers, and we were not allowed to enter. We met our friend who suggested to sneak into the room when drinks were brought, but how to sneak in with that outfit?

Mr. Bourg, you've missed the big thrill that evening. Once you asked me to remove my mask and I did not understand (it just had been too noisy then) and so you inscribed it when I had it on. This evening all people who gave me their autograph on my mask did so when I had it on. For you I would have removed it, and for you I removed it indeed - without you seeing it. Our friend brought the mask to you and then brought it back with your autograph on it. Thanks a lot for the autograph, but I would have loved to see you...

The mask is now lying on my desk, and I look upon it with a smile, thinking about the only time I wore it ... I'll never wear it again.

We went to our van to look for our dog which was fast asleep and to change masks (I've got more than one...) Coming back, people were wondering if there was another, new phantom, but it was the old one, and I indeed began to feel very old. We took our
last champagne and then saw the rose raptors. I leaned on a table when I saw a red rose lying around. Poor flower, no water at all, so I picked it up. It was a real flower, but there were synthetic roses pinned to the balustrades and the ceiling, and while we stood there we saw people come and rip them down, taking the flowers with them.  Astounding! Nothing bad about souvenirs, but it seemed a little bit like robbing the dead.
This was the point of no return.
It was over now for us, it made no sense to stay any longer. Our friend left, too, there still was no IJB around, it was half past three and we had hours to drive home. So, with a last glance around and a tear in the eye, good bye, 'Neue Flora', farewell, 'Phantom'.

It was a silent drive home.
And when we were in a forest near our home, another day was dawning. We stopped and took our dog for a morning walk. A little repayment for having waited so long in the car...We talked a little bit about the shows we had seen. It was romantic: The silvery dawn, the dark trees, our dog merrily jumping around, frolicking in the fresh grass - morning glow was here, at last.

And then I remembered the autograph cards our friend gave to me. There also was one of IJB. Later, I turned it and found the homepage address sticker on it. And so, thanks to IJB or whoever put this sticker on the card, this silvery morning with it's dark trees and our happy dog was not only the end of a beautiful story, but somehow the beginning of a new one.
It's over now, the music of the night...Really??

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