The Phantom of the Opera
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|Original title||Le Fantôme de l'Opéra|
|Subject||Romance, Mystery, Horror|
|23 September 1909 to 8 January 1910|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Serial)|
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. 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. 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.
In Paris in the 1890s, the Palais Garnier opera house is believed to be haunted by an entity known as the Phantom or the Opera Ghost. A stagehand named Joseph Buquet is found hanged and the rope 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, is called upon to sing in the 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, recognises 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, who he is skeptical, 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 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 keep her 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 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 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 sympathises with Erik, and decides to sing for him one last time as a means of saying good-bye. 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" into Erik's secret lair deep in the bowels of the opera house, but they end up trapped into 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 earlier in the novel. 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 given a kiss back. Erik reveals that he has never received a kiss, not even from his own mother, nor has been allowed to give one and is overcome with emotion. He and Christine then cry together and their tears "mingle". Erik later says that he has never felt so close to another human being. 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 afterwards he will go to the newspaper and report his death, as he will die soon and will die "of love". Indeed, some time later Christine returns to Erik's lair, buries him somewhere he will never be found (by Erik's request) and returns the gold ring. Afterwards, a local newspaper runs the simple note: "Erik is dead". Christine and Raoul (who finds out that Erik has killed his older brother) elope together, never to return.
Passages narrated directly by the Persian and the final chapter piece together Erik's life: 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, wearing a mask, 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 and racket them.
- Erik: The Phantom of the Opera, a deformed former conjuror also referred to as the Angel of Music and the Opera Ghost. He tutors and eventually becomes obsessed with Christine Daaé.
- Christine Daaé: A young Swedish soprano at the Paris Opera House with whom the Phantom falls in love.
- Vicomte Raoul de Chagny: Christine's childhood friend and love interest.
- The Persian: A mysterious man from Erik's past.
- Comte Phillipe de Chagny: Raoul's older brother.
- Armand Moncharmin and Firmin Richard: The new managers of the opera house.
- Madame Giry: The opera's box keeper.
- Meg Giry: Often referred to as "Little Meg", Madame Giry's only daughter, a ballet girl.
- Debienne and Poligny: The previous managers of the opera house
- Carlotta: A spoiled prima donna; the lead soprano of the Paris Opera House.
- Madame Valérius: Christine's elderly guardian.
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.
- Shah, Raj (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.
- 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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