RAOUL as HUSSAR SOLDIER






"Christine, what are you afraid of...?"


Raoul is dressed up as a Hussar soldier at the grand masked ball. That has been the tradition all since the first POTO movie with Lon Chaney was released. It might also be a nod towards the Leroux novel, where we are told that Raoul is a navy man who's merely hanging around at the Opéra because he's awaiting an expedition to the Arctic Circle - the soldier uniform can be a way to point out his military background. The origin of the gold braid work on the jacket was to protect the body during sword fights, and some uniforms also has gold decorations on the trousers. An average Hussar stage costume use 30 metres of gold braid, and the wool fabric comes from London.

A Hussar was originally a Hungarian cavalry soldier (in Hungarian "Huszár") used throughout Europe from the 15th century. A real Hussar uniform doesn't have ONE specific look - it can be black, blue, red, green, two coloured, fur trimmed, skirted etc etc. The amount of gold on the jacket also varies. But what is common for all Hussar outfits is the gold braid decorations, added to protect the jacket and the wearer in an eventual swordfight. That detail was adapted by females in the 19th century and became a fashion detail. It is especially noticeable in Regency dresses, because Hussar soldiers was in the armies of Napoleon and seen as very brave. Raoul's costume is a version of those used by the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars. That uniform was normally red and green.

Steve Barton, original Raoul, wasn't too happy about this costume - or rather the loose coat. It was originally lined with afghan fur (which made it very heavy) and it would pull terribly at his neck when dancing. Rumours has it that he always put the coat on seconds before he entered the stage.... Most later versions has had velvet or fur trims, but not fur lining, making it easier to dance and move around in "Masquerade". Maria Bjørnson also toyed with the idea of letting Raoul wear a long cloak for this scene, as seen in the costume sketch underneath. That idea was abandoned, maybe because it made the dance routine difficult.

Michael Lee from the Maria Bjørnson archive came with this interesting tidbit: Maria enjoyed the tease of famous faces, like Errol Flynn i her designs for Raoul (...)". So if you think the face in the design looks familiar, you're probably right!