Rutgers Professor Teaches Psychiatry Through Phantom of the Opera

News   Rutgers Professor Teaches Psychiatry Through Phantom of the Opera
Dr. Anthony Tobia analyzes Christine to teach psychiatry—and proposes an unseen ending to the 28-year-old tale.
Sierra Boggess in <i>The Phantom of the Opera</i>
Sierra Boggess in The Phantom of the Opera Joan Marcus

Since 2009, Dr. Anthony Tobia has been using The Phantom of the Opera as a teaching tool in his classroom at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.

An associate professor and director of the psychiatry core clerkship for third-year medical students, he has been captivated with Phantom and Christine Daaé’s story since he saw the musical in 1995. Tobia describes Phantom as the perfect clinical study of mood disorders, saying, “In Christine, we find a character who is dealing with complicated bereavement—she is still mourning her father who died when she was 13—along with significant stress in her life,” Tobia told Rutgers Today. “It allows us to talk about what is known in the DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] as persistent complex bereavement disorder and its potential evolution, which includes full-blown clinical depression, psychosis and suicidality.”

Tobia believes that in the story (after the curtain falls) Christine commits suicide. “There are clues in the show,” he said. Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show’s creator, has not commented on this speculation.

Actor Julia Udine, who first played Christine in the North American tour before taking over the role on Broadway December 2014-June 2015, recently collaborated with Tobia on a “Grand Rounds showcase,” hosted by the Stuart D. Cook MD Master Educators’ Guild and the Department of Psychiatry at Rutgers University.

Udine sang some of the score as Christine, while Tobia worked through the lyrics offerings medical commentary. After the experience, Udine said that if she were to play Christine again, “I would use some of his teachings to prepare myself.”

Tobia has not addressed psychiatric symptoms or diagnoses about The Phantom himself. Perhaps at another lecture.

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