The Phantom of the Opera (French: Le Fantôme de l'Opéra) is a novel by the French author Gaston Leroux that was first published as a newspaper serial between September 23, 1909 and January 8, 1910.
The title character is a man who calls himself Erik, is hideously deformed and hides his ugliness behind a mask. Erik is extremely talented but does not appear to know the difference between right and wrong. He is prepared to use extortion, intimidation and even murder in order to get what he wants. He lives beneath the Paris Opera House and moves freely about the building. He is believed by most people who work in the Opera House to be a ghost that haunts the theater. For many years, the Phantom leaves notes to extort money from the Opera House managers and makes them agree to keep box number five free for him at all times. He threatens that there will be severe consequences if his conditions are not met.
The novel deals primarily with the Phantom's relationship with Christine Daae, a beautiful and gifted young opera singer with whom he falls in love.
There have been numerous adaptations of the novel to other media.
Plot of the novel
After an introduction in which Leroux says that the ghostly goings-on at the Paris Opera House thirty years earlier are well known, the novel moves on to the life story of Christine Daae. Christine is born in Sweden, the daughter of a talented violinist. She moves to rural France with her father when she is six. There she meets and befriends a boy from a noble family named Raoul. Christine's father tells the two children stories, which they greatly enjoy, about the Angel of Music. Christine's father dies while she is still a little girl. On his deathbed he promises to send the Angel of Music from heaven to help her.
Christine eventually finds work at the Paris Opera House. Soon after she arrives, she begins to hear a voice singing and speaking to her. She asks the voice if it is the Angel of Music. The voice says that it is the angel and offers to teach her some heavenly music. The voice really belongs to Erik, the Phantom of the Opera. Christine's voice improves with Erik's help. She sings at a gala performance and is a great success. Raoul, now the Viscount of Chagny, hears her sing and remembers his love for her.
The Opera House management refuse to leave any more money for the Phantom and will no longer keep box number five free for him. During a performance, the prima donna La Carlotta appears to croak like a toad (the sound is really coming from Erik the Phantom who considers himself to be the world's greatest ventriloquist) before a chandelier comes crashing down into the audience. During the chaos that ensues, the Phantom abducts Christine.
The Phantom reveals to Christine that he was her Angel of Music. At first, he plans to keep her with him for a few weeks, hoping that she will fall in love with him during that time. Christine finds herself becoming attracted to him but everything changes when she removes his mask and sees that he has a face like a rotting corpse. Erik becomes enraged, shouting that Christine probably thinks his face is another mask and forcing her to touch it to prove that it is real. Erik decides to force Christine to stay with him forever but allows her to leave after two weeks, on the condition that she wears his ring and promises to be faithful to him.
Christine tells Raoul what has happened to her. Raoul says that he will take Christine far away, where Erik will never find her. Christine feels sorry for Erik and wants to sing on stage for him one more time. She does not realize that Erik was listening to her conversation with Raoul and has become insanely jealous. He abducts her again and demands that she marries him. He tells Christine that he has explosives and will blow up the Opera House, killing everyone inside it, if she does not marry him.
Raoul is approached by a turbaned man, known to everyone in the Opera House as The Persian. The Persian reveals to Raoul that he was a police inspector in his own country and he knows Erik of old. The two set off to rescue Christine from the Phantom's underground lair but are captured and imprisoned in a torture chamber.
When Christine finds out that Erik has taken Raoul and the Persian prisoner, she agrees to marry him on the condition that he sets them free. Erik lifts his mask to kiss her on the forehead. When Christine kisses him back he is moved to tears and says that nobody, not even his mother, has ever kissed him before. He allows Christine to leave and tells her to marry Raoul.
Erik visits the Persian and says that he will not cause any more trouble. Three weeks later, a Paris newspaper carries the simple announcement, "Erik is dead."
There have been numerous stage, film, radio and television adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera. Other novels have been written which act as sequels or prequels to the story and provide a more detailed back story for characters in it. Some adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera have emphasized the horror aspects of the novel, others have placed more emphasis on romance or music.
A silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney as the Phantom, was released by Universal in 1925. A detailed replica of the Paris Opera House's interior was built for its set. The plot of the silent movie follows the novel quite closely but was given a more dramatic ending. After Raoul and the police inspector are released, the Phantom abducts Christine again and leaves with her in a stolen carriage. They are followed by an angry mob who kill the Phantom by beating him and then throwing him into the river Seine.
The success of the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera was largely responsible for Universal going on to make more horror movies, including Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932) and The Invisible Man (1933).
The set from the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera was used again for Universal's 1943 color remake, directed by Arthur Lubin and starring Claude Rains as the Phantom. In the 1943 version, the Phantom is originally Erique Claudin, a violinist at the Paris Opera House for twenty years who is forced to quit because pains in his hands are affecting his playing. Erique is low on funds because he has secretly been paying for Christine DuBois' music lessons. In order to make some money he takes a concerto he has written to a publisher. On a subsequent visit to the publisher, Erique is told that his concerto has been lost. When he hears his music coming from another room he thinks that the publisher has stolen it. He attacks and kills the publisher but has acid thrown in his face by the publisher's female assistant. This is the first adaptation in which the Phantom becomes disfigured by acid, now an accepted part of the Phantom of the Opera legend. He is born disfigured in the original novel.
A version of The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Terence Fisher and starring Herbert Lom as the Phantom, was produced in 1962 by Hammer Film Productions, the British film company which between the late 1950s and early 1970s produced dozens of horror films, including several based around the characters of Count Dracula and Baron von Frankenstein and three versions of the Jekyll and Hyde story. The Hammer film version moves the action from nineteenth century Paris to Victorian London. The Phantom was originally Professor Petrie, a music teacher who approached Lord Ambrose D'Arcy for help in getting his music published. When Lord D'Arcy tries to pass the professor's music off as his own, Petrie breaks into the printers that is publishing it to burn every copy. A fire starts. Petrie throws what he thinks is water on the fire but it is acid. The acid splashes back in his face and scars him. He runs from the burning building, jumps into the river Thames and ends up under the opera house where a mute, nameless dwarf cares for him. The Phantom in this version is intended to be a completely sympathetic character. The murders are not committed by the Phantom but by his dwarf assistant, who the Phantom describes as difficult to control, like a wild animal. In this version, the Phantom's entire face is covered by a gray mask and only one eye is visible. When his face is finally revealed in the final minutes of the movie, it is not as ugly as his mask.
Phantom of the Paradise, a 1974 movie directed by Brian De Palma, updates the story to the world of 1970s pop music and borrows elements from the Faust legend and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Winslow Leech is a singer and composer who has his music stolen by record producer Swan, who also frames him for drug dealing. Having escaped from prison, Leech breaks into Swan's studio but an accident with a record press leaves his face disfigured and robs him of the ability to speak. Leech puts on an owl-like mask and a cape and terrorizes people at Swan's nightclub The Paradise, until Swan, who sold his soul to the Devil in order to stay young while photos of him age, offers to make a deal with him.
A supernatural element is also introduced to the 1989 version of The Phantom of the Opera. The film, directed by Dwight H. Little, stars Robert Englund (best known for playing Freddy Krueger in the 1984 movie A Nightmare on Elm Street and its sequels) as the Phantom. The Phantom is Erik Destler, a man who sells his soul to the Devil in return for musical success. The Devil tells him that people will love him for his music but only for his music and disfigures him. The story opens in present-day New York. Christine Day, an aspiring Broadway singer, sings some music by Erik Destler at an audition. She is hit on the head with a sandbag and wakes up in Victorian London. At the end, she returns to the present-day and finds Erik Destler still alive, wearing a prosthetic face.
The most successful stage adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera is the 1986 musical, with music by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and book by Lloyd-Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. The musical won an Olivier Award in London in 1986 and a Tony Award in New York in 1988. It is the longest running Broadway production in history and the second longest running production in the history of London's West End. It has been performed in one hundred and forty-nine cities in twenty-five countries. A movie based on the musical was made in 2004, directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Gerard Butler as the Phantom.
- Text of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux in French and English on Wikisource.
- Free public domain audiobook of The Phantom of the Opera from LibriVox.
- The Phantom of the Opera (title) on the Internet Movie Database.
- Video of the 1925 silent movie The Phantom of the Opera on Wikimedia Commons.
- Phantom of the Opera Wiki
- The Phantom of the Opera on Villains wiki.