Their Christine – Anna O'Byrne

by L. Chrystal Dmitrovic

It was inevitable that at some point in her life opera would catch Anna O'Byrne's full attention. Having a music teacher for a mother, and being musically inclined from a young age and initially learning violin, she then became involved with choir and high school musicals. After a summer holiday in Vienna, Austria, she fell very much in love with the opera, and it seemed a natural choice to enroll in college music studies after returning home to Australia.

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Since graduating, her career has taken wing, and she is flying as high as an “angel of music.” O'Byrne understudied as Christine Daaé in the Australian staging of The Phantom of the Opera (and a few years later she would also later play Daaé in numerous performances in the production in London's West End). This singer-actress certainly knows Gaston Leroux's character very well. For Love Never Dies (LND) she and her co-star, Ben Lewis, were chosen out of 900 others auditioning to play the leads – she as Christine and Lewis as the Phantom - in Andrew Lloyd's Webber sequel to his original musical and 2004 film, The Phantom of the Opera (TPOTO).

As a singer, Anna O'Byrne has pristine and dulcet qualities to her trained voice, which have some hailing her as the “Soprano of the 21st century.” For LND, her persona was an ideal feminine complement to Lewis' strong masculine stage presence. She is also, beautifully and conceivably, Leroux's Christine Daaé character if he could have imagined her ten years later.

Anna as Christine with Simon Gleeson as Raoul. In Love Never Dies, Anna projected everything about Christine Daaé that said her character was not entirely happy with Raoul. (Photo: Jeff Busby)

Catching up the story in the Webber 2011 sequel, Christine, believing the Phantom was dead, had made necessary choices such as marrying Raoul to ensure she would have a respectable life for herself and her son. While in Coney Island with an invitation from Oscar Hammerstein to perform at his new opera house, out of the ordinary things begin to happen in their hotel suite. As Gustave sight reads from a handwritten score left on the suite's piano, the past tugs at Christine's heart, and as mentioned before, the musical toy unexpectedly plays an ominous roll. Raoul leaves the suite for an appointment. Her life of ten years earlier all clamours back in one moment – when the Phantom appears on the threshold of the suite's balcony doors.

The last moments of the hotel suite scenes – after all the duets and other songs that tell their love story of the past and also involving Gustave have been sung, and after the Phantom has departed the suite leaving in her hands the song he had written for her – are a testimony to Anna O'Byrne's intuitive acting metier. The range of emotional expression is extraordinary and sublime. Inner conflict rises and ebbs and awakens upon Anna's face as she reads the lyrics and hums the melody that speak of Christine's now remembered bittersweet memories of the man who had once taught her all he knew about music. And the viewer understands as quickly as her character considers in succession all the facets of their past, present and possible future altogether at once.

Other realizations suddenly brought her to her feet, holding his music score - likely that the Phantom wrote the song specifically for her, and she could see that he had loved her once and loved her still - and now she knew that she still loved him, had loved him all along, and wanted her future to be one of her belonging only to him. Her memories of the love they shared cascade upon her so completely and overwhelmingly that she once again becomes caught up into the Angel of Music's realm, falling anew under the magic of his hypnotic spell where only his love could bid her enter. If Raoul had not returned at that moment, the viewer also knows she would have followed after the Phantom, leaving ten years of her life behind to be forgotten willingly. (Although she and the Phantom of course would have somehow arranged to obtain custody of Gustave if the storyline had gone that way.)


Simon Gleeson (Raoul), Sharon Millerchip (Meg Giry) and Anna backstage after their scene together singing Dear Old Friend; at that moment, Ben Lewis (the Phantom) and Jack Lyall (Gustave) were onstage performing the Beautiful/The Beauty Underneath number (Photo shared by Anna O'Byrne on facebook.)


Throughout the 2011 sequel, Anna and Ben played their roles with obvious respect for their characters and each other. Said Anna on facebook regarding her co-star, after she had attended a late January London performance of Candide, a play Lewis was currently starring in, “It was an honour to watch my LOVE NEVER DIES leading man (and dear friend) Ben Lewis in the Menier Chocolate Factory's gorgeous production of CANDIDE the other week. It's a must-see if you're in London and I urge you to snap up one of the few remaining tickets! Ben is a remarkable actor with the most astounding voice, and I was reminded how proud and thankful I am to have spent a year working alongside him on LND. Truly a gift.” She also posted a backstage photo of them at Carols by Candlelight in 2011, taken just before going onstage to sing the O Come All Ye Faithful Christmas carol, the opening number of the evening.

Anna O'Byrne has caught her rising star and is hanging on tightly. Apart from her euphoric vocals, this highly photogenic actress has also modelled, and it has been heard that she is possibly taking ballet lessons. If she one day dances as sweetly as she sings, her talent and versatility could very well take her on any road she chooses to follow, anywhere in the world ….

Layla Harrison and Anna O’Byrne as Christine backstage at a London performance of The Phantom of the Opera in 2013.



Anna O'Byrne Fact File:

Opera includes:

Film includes:

Anna as Christine. Even after having made her choice, she remains at the centre of Love Never Dies' love triangle, between Raoul and the Phantom. The question is now about Gustave.

Television includes:

Other work includes:

Anna as Miriam, Jack Huston as Bruno, onset of their play, Strangers on a Train which ran until February, 2014 at the Gielgud Theatre in London. (Photo shared by Anna O'Byrne on facebook.)