The Phantom of the Opera is a disfigured musician named Erik who lives below the Opéra Garnier in Paris. He has a large part in managing each performance through his friend Gerard Carriere. The Phantom's life changes when Carriere is dismissed and the opera hires a new manager, Choleti. Choleti's wife Carlotta is a spoiled woman with a bad personality and terrible voice; The Phantom takes an instant dislike to them both. Choleti and Carlotta refuse to listen to warnings about the "ghost" who haunts the opera house, even when Joseph Buquet, Carlotta's wardrobe man, goes into the depths of the opera house and is killed.
Christine Daae comes to the Paris Opera House to receive voice lessons that Phillipe, the Comte de Chagny promised her, learning that she is not the first pretty face Phillipe brought there. Carlotta dismisses her, but upon learning that Christine has a powerful patron lets Christine work in the costume department. Christine has no home or money, but Jean-Claude, the doorman, lets her stay in a storage room in the Opera House. Christine wanders onto the stage and sings to the empty theater. The Phantom is entranced by her voice. Hiding in the orchestra pit, he tells her that her voice is miraculous but untrained, and with proper technique her singing could reach its full potential. He offers to be her teacher, but must remain anonymous; that is why he wears a mask. They begin lessons, and the Phantom falls deeper in love with her.
In retaliation for Carlotta's singing the lead in every production, Erik begins a campaign of humiliation against her, sabotaging her performances and causing Carlotta to become a laughingstock. The Comte de Chagny learns that Christine has been working in the costume department. He apologizes and invites her to the Bistro. With Erik's encouragement, Christine attends the Bistro and sings. Everyone is astonished by her voice and Choleti signs her to a singing contract. Phillipe and Christine start to bond. The Count realizes Christine was his childhood sweetheart from long ago. Erik witnesses them driving off together and stays up all night in the rehearsal room, waiting for Christine. When she returns, she finds him gone.
Because of the Phantom's sabotage campaign, Carlotta says she will not sing until he is caught or killed. Finding out Christine has been secretly living in the Opera, Carlotta blackmails Christine into telling her about her vocal coach. When Carlotta informs her husband that Christine's teacher is the Phantom, Choleti gives Christine the female lead of the opera Faust; he is working with the police to capture the Phantom. During their next lesson, there is tension between the Phantom and Christine about where she went after the Bistro performance, but he agrees to help her prepare for her stage debut. Carlotta offers Christine a beverage that weakens her voice. The audience starts booing and Erik is enraged. He cuts through the ropes holding the chandelier and drops it on the audience, then abducts Christine to his underground lair.
The Phantom discovers Carlotta was behind Christine's voice problems and dumps rats on her, driving her insane. As Christine sleeps, Erik builds traps for anyone who comes down below. Carriere pleads with him to let Christine go, but Erik refuses. He insists that the world above is not fit for her and believes that in time she will love him. He shows Carriere explosive materials he has devised, and warns him that he will blow up the opera house if they try to come down there. Carriere goes to Christine and urges her to get out. He tells her the story of Erik's past and of Erik's mother, a great singer named Belladova to whom she bears a resemblance. Belladova gave birth to him below the opera house, and Erik has lived there his entire life. Christine refuses to leave without talking to Erik.
Erik takes Christine on a tour of his underground home. During a picnic, she asks Erik to show her his face. Erik refuses, but she promises him that she would be able to look at him with love and acceptance, just as his mother once did. When he does unmask, she faints. In the midst of an anguished breakdown, Erik locks her in one of his chambers. Christine escapes, and Carriere and the Count take her from the Opera House. Christine is stricken with guilt, and after having a dream that Erik is dying begs Phillipe to take her back. The Comte agrees, and he and Christine approach Choleti about singing that night. Choleti secretly arranges to have police planted throughout the opera house.
Carriere finds Erik among the remains of his lair. Carriere tells Erik that Christine did not mean to hurt him. Erik replies simply, "She was unprepared for ugliness." The conversation turns to Erik's mother and, eventually, his face. The older man reveals that he has seen Erik's face, because he is his father. Erik says he knew. He tells Carriere that when he dies, he wants to be buried deep so he cannot be put on display. Gerard promises before leaving Erik. Christine sings at that night's performance of Faust. Erik hears her and forces himself up to Box Five. He begins singing with her. Christine and the Phantom sing to each other with such passion that the audience is awed.
The police shoot at Erik and he jumps on stage, grabbing hold of Christine. He carries her to the roof, fighting off police. The Comte pursues them, but in the ensuing struggle is knocked off the roof, dangling above the street. Erik begins breaking the Comte's grip, but at Christine's pleading pulls him to safety. Erik finds himself cornered, with police determined to take him alive. Carriere has gone to his old offices and retrieved a gun. Upholding his promise, Carriere shoots his son. Erik falls from the roof and Christine runs to him. While cradled in his father's lap, Christine removes Erik's mask, looks him straight in the face and smiles. Erik dies with his father and Christine at his side. Christine replaces Erik's mask and is led away by the Comte.Charles Dance as Erik/The Phantom of The Opera
Teri Polo as Christine Daaé/Belladova
Adam Storke as Phillipe Comte de Chagny
Burt Lancaster as Gerard Carriere
Ian Richardson as Choleti
Andréa Ferréol as Carlotta
Jean-Pierre Cassel as Inspector Ledoux
Jean Rougerie as Jean Claude
André Chaumeau as Joseph Buquet
Arthur Kopit had long been an admirer of Gaston Leroux's story, but felt that the horror premise had left out the possibility of a more compelling relationship between the two main characters. So he came up with a script in which the Phantom is a romantic hero, frightening only to those who would misuse the opera house wherein he dwells - and to those who would stand in the way of Christine's eventual rise to stardom. And he decided to use plenty of music in his storytelling - not original music, but classical opera arias that would imbue his production with a sense of the Phantom's heart, soul and passion. Then Andrew Lloyd Webber came along, and Kopit was devastated: "Here was work that I deeply loved, and it looked for all that world like it would never be seen."
He later heard that the network was in the market for a miniseries, so he sent them a copy of his script. "I had to convince them that I wasn't following on the heels of Lloyd Webber's success," he said. "But once I was able to do that, it wasn't difficult to help them see the potential of this interesting, unusual love story."
The miniseries won two Emmy Awards out of five nominations in 1990 for Outstanding Art Direction and Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Special. It was also nominated for two Golden Globe Awards in 1991 for Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television and Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Burt Lancaster).
Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker gave the film a score of A- and said Arthur Kopit and director Tony Richardson "make the romance between the Phantom and Christine both touching and frightening, and the casting of Burt Lancaster as Carriere, the manager of the opera company, gives the story weight and great charm...The Phantom of the Opera has a few old-fashioned but genuinely scary moments...It's as if Richardson went back to look at old horror movies by such filmmakers as Val Lewton and James Whale to figure out how they got their spooky but never gruesome effects; if so, he learned well. The production is marred by Adam Storke's bland Count de Chagny; it's impossible to believe that Christine would prefer this petulant pretty-boy over Dance's funky-faced Phantom. But all in all, The Phantom of the Opera is a real achievement: It's rare enough for a costume drama to show up on TV these days; the fact that this is a good one is amazing." People critic David Hiltbrand gave the film a score of B+ and said "Director Tony Richardson has mounted a sumptuous, stately version of this oft-told epic melodrama, far surpassing the previous TV version with Maximilian Schell and Jane Seymour in 1983. But Lon Chaney must be spinning in his grave, seeing what a rakish romantic his ghoulish Phantom has become over the years." Hiltbrand praised that Burt Lancaster "lends his usual air of refined dignity, and Charles Dance makes an elegant Phantom. But the real zest is provided by Ian Richardson and Andrea Ferreol, who bring great comic verve to the roles of the pompous popinjay of an opera director and his deluded diva of a wife." The Deseret News critic Joseph Walker said, "Kopit's script maintains his vision throughout, expertly mixing moods ranging from the ridiculous ("I'm not used to killing people," says the Phantom after a rare violent episode. "It throws me off.") to the sublime. And the production values throughout are first rate..." Walker also added that Charles Dance is a "superb Phantom – brooding and mysterious, and yet somehow approachable. Polo makes the most of her big TV break, creating a flesh and blood heroine who is utterly believable...The rest of the cast is similarly effective, especially Ferreol who practically steals the show with her broad comic Carlotta.TV Guide gave the film four out of five stars and said Charles Dance is an "excellent Phantom" and "excellent support from Richardson and Lancaster."The New York Times critic John J. O'Connor was puzzled how the recluse Phantom became "cultivated and talented" and criticized Adam Storke's performance and the "international menu of accents." However, he stated "the physical production is gloriously lavish...And the director Tony Richardson deftly captures the fairy-tale aspects of the story," describing the film as a "variation on Beauty and the Beast, with echoes of Cinderella and enchanted forests." He also stated that "most of the performances transcend the accent difficulties. Mr. Dance is elegant, Mr. Lancaster dignified and Miss Polo, not yet 20 years old, strikingly beautiful. The show is just about stolen, however, by Ian Richardson and Andrea Ferreo...," and concluded "Phantom adds up to an odd but fascinating prime-time diversion."