The Phantom of the Opera

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The Phantom of the Opera
Phantom of the Opera Cover.jpg
1920 edition [France]
Author Gaston Leroux
Original title Le Fantôme de l'Opéra
Country France
Language Originally French, translated into English
Subject romance, mystery
Genre Gothic novel
Publisher Pierre Lafitte and Cie.
Publication date
September 23, 1909 to January 8, 1910
Published in English
1911
Media type Print (Serial)
Pages ~190
OCLC 15698188

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 serialisation in Le Gaulois from September 23, 1909 to January 8, 1910. It was published in volume form in April 1910 by Pierre Lafitte.[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 one of the Paris Opera's productions.[2] Nowadays, it is overshadowed by the success of its various stage and film adaptations. The most notable of these are the 1925 film depiction featuring Lon Chaney, Sr and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical.

Plot summary[edit]

Christine Daaé travels with her father, a famous fiddler, throughout Europe, and plays folk and religious music. When Christine was six years old, her mother died and her father was taken to rural France by a patron, Professor Valerius.

While Christine was a child, her father told her many stories about the "Angel of Music", who is the personification of musical inspiration. Christine meets and befriends the young Raoul, Viscount of Chagny. One of Christine and Raoul's favourite stories is one of Little Lotte, a girl who is visited by the Angel of Music and possesses a heavenly voice.

Christine now lives with "Mamma" Valerius, the elderly widow of her father's benefactor. She eventually is given a position in the chorus at the Paris Opera House (Palais Garnier). She begins hearing a beautiful, unearthly voice which sings to her and speaks to her. She believes this must be the Angel of Music and asks him if he is. The Voice agrees and offers to teach her "a little bit of heaven's music". The Voice, however, belongs to Erik, a physically deformed and mentally disturbed musical genius who was one of the architects who took part in the construction of the opera house. He is in love with Christine.

Christine triumphs at the gala on the night of the old managers' retirement. Her old childhood friend, Raoul, hears her sing and recalls his love for Christine. He then hears the "Angel of Music" speaking to Christine. Some time after the gala, the Paris Opera performs Faust, with the prima donna Carlotta playing the lead, against Erik's wishes. In response to a refused surrender of Box Five to the Opera Ghost, Carlotta loses her voice and the grand chandelier plummets into the audience.

After the accident, Erik kidnaps Christine, takes her to his home (the cellars) and reveals his true identity. He plans to keep her there for a few days, hoping she will come to love him. Christine begins to find herself attracted to her abductor. But she causes Erik to change his plans when she unmasks him and, to the horror of both, beholds his face, which according to the book, resembles the face of a rotting corpse. Erik goes into a frenzy, stating she probably thinks his face is another mask, and whilst digging her fingers in to show it was really his face he shouts, "I am Don Juan Triumphant!" before crawling away, crying. Fearing that she will leave him, he decides to keep her with him forever, but when Christine requests release after two weeks, he agrees on condition that she wear his ring and be faithful to him.

On the roof of the opera house, Christine tells Raoul that Erik abducted her. Raoul promises to take Christine away to a place where Erik can never find her. Raoul tells Christine he shall act on his promise the next day, to which Christine agrees. She, however, has pity for Erik and will not go until she has sung a song for him one last time. Christine then realises the ring has slipped off her finger and has fallen into the street somewhere. She begins to panic, but neither is aware that Erik has been listening to their conversation and that he has become extremely jealous.

The following night, Erik kidnaps Christine during a production of Faust and tries to force Christine to marry him. He states that if she refuses, he will use explosives (which he has planted in the cellars) to destroy the entire opera house. Christine refuses, until she realises that Erik learned of Raoul's attempt to rescue her and has trapped Raoul in a hot torture chamber (along with the Persian, an old acquaintance of Erik who was going to help Raoul). To save them and the people above, Christine agrees to marry Erik. Erik initially tries to drown Raoul, 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 earlier in the novel. Erik eventually rescues Raoul from his torture chamber. When Erik is alone with Christine, he lifts his mask to kiss her on her forehead, and is given a kiss back. Erik reveals that he has never received a kiss (not even from his own mother) or has been allowed to give one and is overcome with emotion. He lets Christine go and tells her, "Go and marry the boy whenever you wish", explaining, "I know you love him." She leaves on the condition that when he dies she will come back and bury him.

Being an old acquaintance, the Persian is told these secrets by Erik, and upon his express request, the Persian advertises Erik's death in a newspaper about three weeks later. The cause of the death is revealed to be a broken heart, and as promised, Christine returns to bury Erik and gives him back the ring.

Characters[edit]

  • Erik: The "Phantom," "Angel of Music" and "Opera-Ghost."
  • Christine Daaé: A young Swedish soprano singer at the Paris Opera House whom "The Phantom", Erik, falls in love with.
  • Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny: Christine's childhood friend and love interest.
  • The Persian: A mysterious man from Erik's past.
  • Philippe, Comte de Chagny: Raoul's older brother.
  • Armand Moncharmin and Firmin Richard: The managers of the opera house.
  • Madame Giry: Little Meg's mother, box keeper.
  • Meg Giry: Madame Giry's only daughter, a ballet girl. Later becomes Mme. la Baronne de Castelot-Barbezac.
  • Debienne and Poligny: The previous managers of the opera house.
  • Joseph Buquet: The chief scene-shifter.
  • La Carlotta: A spoiled prima donna; the lead soprano of the Paris Opera House.
  • Mercier: The acting manager of the opera house.
  • Gabriel: The superstitious chorus master.
  • Mifroid: The commissary of police called in for Christine's disappearance.
  • Remy: The manager's secretary.
  • The inspector: An inspector hired to investigate the strange affairs in Box Five.
  • Shah and the sultan: The two kings that tried to kill Erik after he made them a palace.
  • La Sorelli: the lead ballerina and woman with whom Comte de Chagny spent time. Also labelled Annie Sorelli, though this is questionable
  • Little Jammes: A mentioned Ballerina at the Opera House.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shah, Raj. "No Ordinary Skeleton: Unmasking the Secret Source of Le Fantôme de l'Opéra", Forum for Modern Language Studies 50:1 (2014): 16-29 (17; 25n11).
  2. ^ Shah 2014.