The Phantom of the Opera

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The title character as depicted by  in the , the most famous adaptation prior to the musical version
The title character as depicted by Lon Chaney, Sr. in the 1925 film depiction, the most famous adaptation prior to the musical version

The Phantom of the Opera is a novel by Gaston Leroux, inspired by George du Maurier's Trilby. Published in 1910, and first translated into English in 1911, it has since been adapted many times into film and stage productions.

The story is about a mysterious figure who terrorizes the Paris Opera House for the unwitting benefit of a young singer he loves.



The Phantom of The Opera is a gothic novel - combining romance, horror, mystery and tragedy.

In Leroux's original 1910 novel, the setting is 19th century Paris at the Opera Garnier, a luxurious and monumental building which has been built over a huge underground lake between 1857 and 1874. The employees claim that the opera house is haunted by a mysterious ghost who causes a variety of accidents. The "Opera Ghost" ("le fantôme de l'Opéra") blackmails the two opera managers to pay him a monthly retainer of 20,000 francs and reserve for him a private concert booth.

Meanwhile, the young diva Christine Daaé (believed to be inspired and guided by an Angel of Music supposedly sent by her father) achieves sudden prominence on the opera stage when she replaces the current prima donna Carlotta, who has twice necessitated replacement due to a mysterious illness. Christine wins the hearts of the audience, including that of her childhood sweetheart, Vicomte Raoul de Chagny.

The Phantom then becomes envious of her relationship with Raoul and invites her to visit him down in his world beneath the edifice. Christine accepts, and down in the catacombs learns that her angel is in actuality a deformed musical genius who wears a mask to hide his abhorrent face. She screams in horror once she beholds his true visage, and the Phantom locks her in his home, agreeing to free her only after she promises to return to him of her own free will.

Christine is torn between her love of young and charming vicomte Raoul and her fascination with the Phantom's darkly beautiful music. When she realizes that her angel is also the Opera Ghost responsible for the accidents and murders, she and Raoul decide to marry in secret and run away from Paris -- and the Phantom's reach.

The Phantom discovers their plan and during Christine's performance as Marguerite in Gounod's Faust, he abducts her from the stage. Down in the Phantom's home, the last confrontation between the Phantom, Christine and Raoul takes place.

Who Is the Phantom?

The Phantom was born as Erik in a small town not far from Rouen, the son of a master-mason. He ran away at an early age from his father's house, where his ugliness was a subject of horror and terror to his parents. For a time, he frequented the fairs, where a freak show showman exhibited him as the "living corpse." He traveled around Europe and Asia with the Gypsies. There he acquired his acrobatic and musical skills and sharpened his twisted genius. He also became an expert ventriloquist.

Eventually, he ended up as court assassin and personal-engineer to the Persian Shah and built for him sophisticated traps and torture devices (such as the Punjab Lasso). After some time, the Shah feared that Erik knew too much and decided to dispose of him. Erik managed to escape, eventually making his way back to France. Based on the dating this unnamed Shah was Nasser-al-Din Shah (1831 - 1896, reigned 1848 - 1896).

Erik used his architectural genius skills and won a contract as one of the architects of Paris' Palais Garnier Opera House. Below the Opera House, an artificial lake had been created during its construction using eight hydraulic pumps, because of problems with the ground water level that kept rising. Without anyone noticing, Erik built a maze of tunnel and corridors on the lower levels. Past the underground lake he built a lair for himself, where he could live protected from the public.

Besides being a brilliant inventor and engineer, Erik was also a musical genius, and he started to visit the Opera House in order to listen to operas and interfere with the manager's bad taste. Because he could not show his face in public, he took the guise of a ghost, using violence in order to blackmail the Opera managers and bind them to his will. He exploited the employees' superstitions and his knowledge about the building's secret passages, allowing him access to every part of the building without being noticed. He terrorized those who refused his demands and even killed people as warnings. However, he treated nicely those who were loyal to him and obeyed his command (such as Madame Giry).

The story of the novel begins when a young chorus girl named Christine Daaé joins the Opera's chorus and Erik, the Phantom, falls in love.


Missing image
Michael Crawford as the Phantom of the Opera, wearing the now famous half-mask, in the 1986 musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber.
Missing image
Gerald Butler as the Phantom of the Opera in the 2004 movie version of the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical.
Missing image
Charles Dance as the Phantom of the Opera in the 1990 television miniseries





  • Phantom by Susan Kay, a retelling of the Phantom's life
  • The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth, a sequel (to the Lloyd Webber musical rather than to the original novel)
  • Angel of Music by D.M. Bernadette, a sequel to "all Phantom adaptations"
  • Journey of the Mask by Nancy Hill Pettengill, a sequel to Leroux's original novel
  • Progeny by Becky L. Meadows, another sequel in which Erik and Christine have a son
  • The Canary Trainer by Nicholas Meyer, a Sherlock Holmes novel which re-interprets Leroux's plot
  • Maskerade by Terry Pratchett, a Discworld novel that parodies the story
  • The Angel of the Opera by Sam Siciliano, Sherlock Holmes and his cousin meet up with the Phantom
  • Night Magic by Charlotte Vale Allen, a retelling of the Phantom story in more modern times
  • Stagestruck Vampires and Other Phantasms by Suzy McKee Charnas; the short story Beauty of the Opera in this anthology offers an alternate ending with Christine staying with the Phantom for five years


  • Heavy metal band Iced Earth wrote a song titled "The Phantom Opera Ghost," released in 2001.
  • Gothic rock band Nightwish recorded a cover version of the title track from Lloyd Webber's musical, and released it on the 2002 album Century Child.

External links

fr:Le Fantôme de l'Opéra gd:An Taibhse an t-Opra it:Il fantasma dell'opera nl:Spook van de Opera sv:Fantomen på Operan


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