The Phantom of the Opera

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The Phantom of the Opera
Andre Castaigne Fantome Opera1.jpg
One of the five watercolors by André Castaigne illustrating the first american edition of the Phantom of the Opera (1911).
Author Gaston Leroux
Original titleLe Fantôme de l'Opéra
Language French
Genre Gothic fiction
PublisherPierre Laie
Publication date
23 September 1909 to 8 January 1910
Published in English
Media typePrint (Serial)
Pages~145 including the glossary
Original text
Le Fantôme de l'Opéra at French Wikisource
Translation The Phantom of the Opera at Wikisource

The Phantom of the Opera (French: Le Fantôme de l'Opéra), is a novel by French writer Gaston Leroux. It was first published as a serialization in Le Gaulois from 23 September 1909, to 8 January 1910. It was published in volume form in late March 1910 by Pierre Lafitte and directed by Aluel Malinao. [1] The novel is partly inspired by historical events at the Paris Opera during the nineteenth century and an apocryphal tale concerning the use of a former ballet pupil's skeleton in Carl Maria von Weber's 1841 production of Der Freischütz . [2] It has been successfully adapted into various stage and film adaptations, most notable of which are the 1925 film depiction featuring Lon Chaney, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical.


History behind the novel

Leroux initially was going to be a lawyer, but after spending his inheritance gambling he became a reporter for L’Echo de Paris . At the paper, he wrote about and critiqued dramas, as well as being a courtroom reporter. With his job, he was able to travel frequently, but he returned to Paris where he became a writer. Because of his fascination with both Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he wrote a detective mystery entitled The Mystery of the Yellow Room in 1907, and four years later he published Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. [3] The novel was first published within newspapers before finally being published as a novel in 1911. [4]

The setting of The Phantom of the Opera came from an actual Paris opera house that Leroux had heard the rumours about from the time the opera house was finished. The details about the Palais Garnier, and rumours surrounding it, are closely linked in Leroux's writing. The underground lake that he wrote about is accurate to this opera house, and it is still used for training firefighters to practice swimming in the dark. The event that was the infamous chandelier crash also rang to be true. [5] The mysteries that Leroux uses in his novel about the Phantom are still mysteries. [6] However, he defended the rumors to be true, even on his death bed. [7]

The Phantom of the Opera's origins came from Leroux's curiosity with the Phantom being real. In the prologue, he tells the readers about the Phantom and the research that he did to prove the truth of the ghost. His findings connected the corpse from the opera house to the Persian phantom himself. [8]

Plot summary

In Paris in the 1880s, the Palais Garnier opera house is believed to be haunted by an entity known as the Phantom of the Opera, or simply the Opera Ghost. A stagehand named Joseph Buquet is found hanged and the noose around his neck goes missing. At a gala performance for the retirement of the opera house's two managers, a young little-known Swedish soprano, Christine Daaé (based on the late singer Christina Nilsson [9] ), is called upon to sing in place of the Opera's leading soprano, Carlotta, who is ill, and her performance is an astonishing success. The Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, who was present at the performance, recognizes her as his childhood playmate and recalls his love for her. He attempts to visit her backstage, where he hears a man complimenting her from inside her dressing room. He investigates the room once Christine leaves, only to find it empty.

At Perros-Guirec, Christine meets with Raoul, who confronts her about the voice he heard in her room. Christine tells him she has been tutored by the Angel of Music, whom her father used to tell them about. When Raoul suggests that she might be the victim of a prank, she storms off. Christine visits her father's grave one night, where a mysterious figure appears and plays the violin for her. Raoul attempts to confront it but is attacked and knocked out in the process.

Back at the Palais Garnier, the new managers receive a letter from the Phantom demanding that they allow Christine to perform the lead role of Marguerite in Faust , and that box 5 be left empty for his use, lest they perform in a house with a curse on it. The managers ignore his demands as a prank, resulting in disastrous consequences: Carlotta (based on the late singer Madmoiselle Carvalho [9] ) ends up croaking like a toad, and the chandelier suddenly drops into the audience, killing a spectator. The Phantom, having abducted Christine from her dressing room, reveals himself as a deformed man called Erik. Erik intends to hold her prisoner in his lair with him for a few days, but she causes him to change his plans when she unmasks him and, to the horror of both, beholds his noseless, lipless, sunken-eyed face, which resembles a skull dried up by the centuries, covered in yellowed dead flesh.

Fearing that she will leave him, he decides to hold her permanently, but when Christine requests release after two weeks, he agrees on the condition that she wear his ring and be faithful to him. On the roof of the opera house, Christine tells Raoul about her abduction and makes Raoul promise to take her away to a place where Erik can never find her, even if she resists. Raoul tells Christine he will act on his promise the next day, to which she agrees. However, Christine sympathizes with Erik and decides to sing for him one last time as a means of saying goodbye. Unbeknownst to Christine and Raoul, Erik has been watching them and overheard their whole conversation.

The following night, the enraged and jealous Erik abducts Christine during a production of Faust and tries to force her to marry him. Raoul is led by a mysterious opera regular known as "The Persian" (who directly narrates the next few chapters) into Erik's secret lair deep in the bowels of the opera house, but they end up trapped in a mirrored room by Erik, who threatens that unless Christine agrees to marry him, he will kill them and everyone in the Opera House by using explosives. Christine agrees to marry Erik. Erik initially tries to drown Raoul and the Persian, using the water which would have been used to douse the explosives, but Christine begs and offers to be his "living bride", promising him not to kill herself after becoming his bride, as she had both contemplated and attempted just prior. Erik eventually releases Raoul and the Persian from his torture chamber.

When Erik is alone with Christine, he lifts his mask to kiss her on her forehead and is eventually given a kiss back. Erik reveals that he has never kissed anyone, including his own mother, who would run away if he tried to kiss her -- nor has anyone ever kissed him. He is overcome with emotion. He and Christine then cry together and their tears "mingle". She also holds his hand and says "Poor, unhappy Erik", which reduces him to "a dog ready to die for her." He allows the Persian and Raoul to escape, though not before making Christine promise that she will visit him on his death day, and return the gold ring he gave her. He also makes the Persian promise that afterward he will go to the newspaper and report his death, as he will die soon and will die "of love". Indeed, sometime later Christine returns to Erik's lair, buries him somewhere where he will never be found (by Erik's request) and returns the gold ring. Afterward, a local newspaper runs the simple note: "Erik is dead". Christine and Raoul (who finds out that Erik has killed Raoul's older brother) elope together, never to return.

The epilogue pieces together bits of Erik's life, information that "the narrator" obtained from the Persian. It is revealed that Erik was the son of a construction business owner, deformed from birth. He ran away from his native Normandy to work in fairs and in caravans, schooling himself in the arts of the circus across Europe and Asia, and eventually building trick palaces in Persia and Turkey. Eventually, he returned to France and started his own construction business. After being subcontracted to work on the foundations of the Palais Garnier, Erik had discreetly built himself a lair to disappear in, complete with hidden passages and other tricks that allowed him to spy on the managers.




Leroux uses the operatic setting in The Phantom of the Opera to use music as a device for foreshadowing. [10] Ribière makes note that Leroux was once a theatre critic and his brother was a musician, so he was knowledgeable about music and how to use it as a framing device. She uses the example of how Leroux introduces Danse Macabre which means "dance of death" in the gala scene which foreshadows the graveyard scene that comes later where the Phantom plays the fiddle for Christine and attacks Raoul when he tries to intervene.

Drumright points out that music is evident throughout the novel in that it is the basis for Christine and Erik's relationship. Christine sees Erik as her Angel of Music that her father promised would come to her one day. The Phantom sees Christine as his musical protege, and he uses his passion for music to teach her everything he knows. [4]


Stylistically, the novel is framed as a mystery novel as it is narrated through a detective pulling his information from various forms of research. [11] The mystery being uncovered is the Phantom who lurks through the opera house, seemingly appearing in places out of nowhere as if by magic. But, it seems that the mystery novel persona was a facade for the real genre being more of a gothic romance. [12]

Gothic horror

In his article, Fitzpatrick compares the Phantom to other monsters featured in Gothic horror novels such as Frankenstein's monster, Dr. Jekyll, Dorian Gray, and Count Dracula. The Phantom has a torture chamber where he kidnaps and kills people, and the walls of the chapel in the graveyard are lined with human bones. [12] Indeed, Drumright notes that The Phantom of the Opera checks off every trope necessary to have a Gothic novel according to the Encyclopedia of Literature's description which says, “Such novels were expected to be dark and tempestuous and full of ghosts, madness, outrage, superstition, and revenge.” [13] Although the Phantom is really just a deformed man, he has ghost-like qualities in that no one can ever find him or his lair and he is seen as a monster. People are frightened by him because of his deformities and the acts of violence he commits. [4]


The novel features a love triangle between the Phantom, Christine, and Raoul. Raoul is seen as Christine's childhood love whom she is familiar with and has affection for. He is rich and therefore offers her security as well as a wholesome, Christian marriage. The Phantom, on the other hand, is not familiar. He is dark, ugly, and dangerous and therefore represents the forbidden love. However, Christine is drawn to him because she sees him as her Angel of Music, and she pities his existence of loneliness and darkness. [4]

Critical reception

By the time Leroux published The Phantom of the Opera, he had already gained credibility as a crime mystery author in both French- and English-speaking countries. He had written six novels prior, two of which had garnered substantial popularity within their first year of publication called The Mystery of the Yellow Room and The Perfume of the Lady in Black. [10] Although previous commentators have asserted that The Phantom of the Opera did not attain as much success as these previous novels, being particularly unpopular in France where it was first published, [14] recent research into the novel's early reception and sales has indicated the contrary. [15] One book review from the New York Times expressed disappointment in the way the phantom was portrayed, saying that the feeling of suspense and horror is lost once it is found out that the phantom is just a man and not a real ghost. [16] The majority of the notability that the novel acquired early on was due to its publication in a series of installments in French, American, and English newspapers. This serialized version of the story became important when it was read and sought out by Universal Pictures to be adapted into a movie in 1925. [14]


There have been many literary and other dramatic works based on Leroux's novel, ranging from stage musicals to films to children's books. Some well known stage and screen adaptations of the novel are the 1925 film and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. In Lloyd Webber's musical, he was focused on writing more of a romance piece and found the book and the musical took off from there. Leroux's novel was more than just a mystery and had romance and other genres that would appeal to more audiences. [4] Lloyd Webber used accounts from within the novel in the musical as well such as the real-life event of the chandelier falling. [17] This was first produced in the mid-80s and has continued to remain popular, still running on Broadway and the West End and spawning multiple touring productions. The musical has received more than fifty awards and is seen by many as being the most popular musical on Broadway. [4]

Leroux's novel was made into two silent films. The first film version, a German adaptation called, Das Gespenst im Opernhaus, is now a lost film. It was made in 1916 and was directed by Ernest Matray. [3]

The next adaptation into a silent film was made in 1925 by Universal Studios. This version starred Lon Chaney Sr. as the Phantom. Due to tensions on the set, there was a switch in directors and Edward Sedgwick finished the film while changing the direction the movie was going to take. His take on the novel and making it a dark romantic movie with comedy was not popular with audiences. [3] Finally, the film was adapted one last time by Maurice Pivar and Louis Weber where they took out most of Sedgwick's adaptation and stuck to the original film. This time, the movie was a success with audiences in 1925. [3]

Related Research Articles

<i>The Phantom of the Opera</i> (2004 film) 2004 musical film directed by Joel Schumacher

The Phantom of the Opera is a 2004 British–American musical drama film based on Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical of the same name, which in turn is based on the French novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux. Produced and co-written by Lloyd Webber and directed by Joel Schumacher, it stars Gerard Butler in the title role, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver, and Jennifer Ellison.

<i>The Phantom of the Opera</i> (1925 film) 1925 film by Lon Chaney, Edward Sedgwick, Rupert Julian

The Phantom of the Opera is a 1925 American silent horror film adaptation of Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney in the title role of the deformed Phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House, causing murder and mayhem in an attempt to make the woman he loves a star. The film remains most famous for Chaney's ghastly, self-devised make-up, which was kept a studio secret until the film's premiere. The film was released on November 25, 1925.

<i>The Canary Trainer</i> novel by Nicholas Meyer

The Canary Trainer: From the Memoirs of John H. Watson is a 1993 Sherlock Holmes pastiche by Nicholas Meyer. Like The Seven Percent Solution and The West End Horror, The Canary Trainer was published as a "lost manuscript" of the late Dr. John H. Watson. In "The Adventure of Black Peter", an original Arthur Conan Doyle Holmes story from 1904, Watson mentions that his companion recently arrested "Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East-End of London." This Wilson is not related to the eponymous character of Meyer's novel. Meyer's "trainer" is Erik, the principal figure of Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera. It is from this unchronicled tale that The Notorious Canary Trainers take their name.

<i>Phantom of the Opera</i> (1943 film) 1943 horror film directed by Arthur Lubin

Phantom of the Opera is a 1943 American horror film directed by Arthur Lubin, loosely based on Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and its 1925 film adaptation starring Lon Chaney. Produced and distributed by Universal Pictures, the film stars Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster and Claude Rains, and was filmed in Technicolor. The original music score was composed by Edward Ward.

Christine Daaé character from Gaston Lerouxs novel The Phantom of the Opera

Christine Daaé is a fictional character and the female protagonist of Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and of the various adaptations of the work. Erik, the Phantom of the Opera and Viscount Raoul de Chagny both fall in love with her.

<i>Phantom of the Opera</i> (1976 musical) 1976 musical

Phantom of the Opera is a 1976 musical with book and lyrics by Ken Hill. It is the first musical adaptation of the novel The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, about the hideously disfigured Phantom's amorous obsession with the magnificent, naïve singer, Christine. Hill wrote the original English lyrics to the music of Verdi, Gounod, Offenbach, Mozart, Weber, Donizetti, and Boito.

<i>Phantom</i> (musical) musical with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book by Arthur Kopit

Phantom is a musical with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book by Arthur Kopit. Based on Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera, the musical was first presented in Houston, Texas in 1991.

<i>Phantom</i> (Kay novel) 1990 novel by Susan Kay

Phantom is a 1990 novel by Susan Kay, based on the Gaston Leroux novel The Phantom of the Opera. It is a biography of the title character, Erik.

<i>The Phantom of the Opera</i> (miniseries) 1990 television film directed by Tony Richardson

The Phantom of the Opera is a 1990 American two-part television miniseries directed by Tony Richardson and stars Charles Dance in the title role. It is adapted from Arthur Kopit's book from his unproduced stage musical Phantom, which is based loosely on Gaston Leroux's novel.

<i>The Phantom of Manhattan</i> novel by Frederick Forsyth

The Phantom of Manhattan is a 1999 novel by Frederick Forsyth, written as a sequel to the 1909 novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux.

Susan Kay is a British writer, the author of two award-winning novels: Legacy and Phantom.

There have been many literary and dramatic works based on Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera, ranging from stage musicals to films to children's books. Some well known stage and screen adaptations of the novel are the 1925 film and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical ; Susan Kay's 1990 Phantom is one of the best known novels and includes in-depth study of the title character's life and experiences.

Madame Giry character from Gaston Lerouxs novel The Phantom of the Opera

Madame Giry is a fictional character from Gaston Leroux's 1909 novel The Phantom of the Opera. She is a fairly intermediate character in the novel, although her role is much increased in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. This article will deal with both versions separately. Madame Giry is also a character in the musical Love Never Dies, a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera.

<i>Return of the Phantom</i> 1993 video game

Return of the Phantom is a point-and-click graphic adventure game developed and published by MicroProse in 1993. It was produced by Matt Gruson and designed/written by future James Bond novelist Raymond Benson. It is based on the book The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.

Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny is a fictional character and one of the protagonists of Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera.

Erik is the title character from Gaston Leroux's novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra (1909), best known to English speakers as The Phantom of the Opera. The character has been adapted to alternate media several times, including in the 1925 film adaptation starring Lon Chaney, the 1943 remake starring Claude Rains and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical.

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Joseph Buquet is a fictional character in The Phantom of the Opera, the 1909 novel by French writer Gaston Leroux. He appears in many film and stage adaptations of the story.

The Persian is a major character from the Gaston Leroux novel The Phantom of the Opera. In the book he is the one who tells most of the background of Erik's history. Erik refers to him as the "daroga" and his memoirs are featured in five chapters of the novel. He is also considered Erik's only friend.

<i>The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall</i> 2011 British musical film directed by Nick Morris

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  2. Shah, Raj (2014). "No Ordinary Skeleton: Unmasking the Secret Source of Le Fantôme de l'Opéra". Forum for Modern Language Studies. 50 (1): 16–29 (17, 25n11). doi:10.1093/fmls/cqt048.
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  5. Palais Garnier. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. 2002. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.o903811.
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  9. 1 2 Hollingsworth, Amy (2008). Gifts of passage : what the dying tell us with the gifts they leave behind. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson. ISBN   9780849919206. OCLC   182856951.
  10. 1 2 Ribière, Mireille. "The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, annotated edition". Mireille Ribière Writings, Photographs. Retrieved Apr 27, 2018.
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  13. Merriam-Webster's encyclopedia of literature. Merriam-Webster, Inc. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster. 1995. ISBN   0877790426. OCLC   31434511.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. 1 2 Haining, Peter. "The Man Who Created the Phantom". The Phantom of the Opera. Retrieved Apr 27, 2018.
  15. Shah, Raj (Mar 3, 2016). "The Publication and Initial French Reception of Gaston Leroux's Le Fantôme de L'opéra". French Studies Bulletin. 37 (138): 13–16. doi:10.1093/frebul/ktw004. ISSN   0262-2750.
  16. "An Opera-House Phantom". The New York Times Book Review. Feb 19, 1911.
  17. "The Phantom of the Opera: myth versus reality". Retrieved Apr 27, 2018.