Genre Gothic novel
|Original title Le Fantôme de l'Opéra|
|Subject Romance, Mystery, Horror|
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 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 1890's Paris, the Palais Garnier is believed to be haunted by an entity known as "The Phantom" or "The Opera Ghost". One day, the stage hand, Joseph Bouquet, is found hanged, presumably by The Phantom, after boasting about him to the corps de ballet. At the same time, Christine Daaé, a young Swedish soprano, has been tutored by what she believes to be "the Angel of Music" sent by her deceased father. On the night of the old managers' retirement, she understudies at the gala performance for the Opera's leading soprano, Carlotta, and her performance is an astonishing success. The Victome Raoul de Changy, who was present at the performance, recognise her as his childhood playmate, and recalls his love for her. He attempts to visit her backstage when he hears a man speaking to her from inside her dressing room. He investigates the room once Christine leaves, only to find that there's no one else in the room. Christine meets with Raoul at Perros-Guirec who confronts her about the voice he heard in her room. Christine tells him about The Angel that has been tutoring her but he is skeptical and suggests that she might be the victim of a prank. Hurt and angry, 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 catch it but is attacked and knocked out in the process. Back at the Palais Garnier, the managers receive a letter from the Opera Ghost demanding that they allow Christine to perform in the lead role of Marguerite in Faust, and that box 5 be left empty for his use, less they perform in house with a curse on it. The managers ignore his demands resulting in disastrous consequences: Carlotta ends up croaking like a toad, and the chandelier suddenly drops into the audience, killing the new concierge. The Phantom then abducts Christine from her dressing room and reveals himself as Erik, and that he has been the one tutoring her. He only intends on keeping her in his lair with him for a few days but she causes Erik 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 shall 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 them, an enraged and jealous Erik has been watching them and overheard their whole conversation. The following night, he abducts Christine during a production of Faust and tries to force her to marry him. Raoul, along with an old acquaintance of Erik's, known as The Persian, attempt to rescue her but are trapped Erik's torture. Erik states that unless she agrees to marry him, he will kill them and everyone in the Opera House by using explosives. To save them and the people above in the Opera, 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 rescues 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 expresses 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'll never be found (by Erik's request) and returns the gold ring. Afterwards, a local newspaper runs the simple note: "Erik is dead".
There have been many literary and 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.