Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the OperaGaston LerouxHorror MysteryHarper PerennialDecember 30, 1987Paperback360

First published in French as a serial in 1909, The Phantom of the Opera is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine Daaé. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine’s childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous ‘ghost’ of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster.

Leroux’s work, with characters ranging from the spoiled prima donna Carlotta to the mysterious Persian from Erik’s past, has been immortalized by memorable adaptations. Despite this, it remains a remarkable piece of Gothic horror literature in and of itself, deeper and darker than any version that follows.

“The world’s most haunted love story” has enticed millions of audiences with its iconic white mask and the mesmerizing music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. This captivating story has haunted generations with the passionate and deadly love triangle between the Phantom, Christine Daaé, and Raoul. The Phantom of the Opera has been made into multiple films and the renowned musical that originated in the West End of London at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

The French book Le Fantôme de l’Opéra was published in English in 1911, but it was Andre Lloyd Webber’s genius that made Phantom a phenomenon. The show has won over 50 major theater awards worldwide and has been seen by more than 100,000,000 people across the globe.

The Phantom is the deformed musical genius that lurks in the catacombs of the Opéra Populaire and terrorizes the occupants of the theater. His obsession with the young soprano Christine Daaé leads her to fame and in return, all he wants is her love. When he learns she has another suitor, however, he descends into madness and goes on a murderous rampage.

Christine is the talented and beautiful girl caught between her childhood friend and the mysterious Phantom. But when the Phantom’s jealousy turns into a blinding rage, she seeks refuge in Raoul’s arms, further infuriating the Phantom and leading to grave consequences.

Raoul is the new patron of the Opera and is pleasantly surprised to find his old childhood sweetheart, Christine, in the leading role. It is his love and devotion to her that unravels the Phantom’s dark and twisted fantasy.

Unlike the musical adaptation, the book is written as a mystery (an investigation of the Opéra Populaire after a fire that destroyed the building) with a lot of horror. In the musical, an auctioneer refers to it as “the incident of the Phantom of the Opera.” However, the main plot-points of the love triangle, Christine’s opera career, and a falling chandelier were originally in the story and transferred into the musical.

For those of you who would rather see a tragic love story than read about a twisted mind, I recommend seeing the musical instead, but for those who are curious about the origins of the smash hit, I recommend you reading the actual book.

Fun Fact: the chandelier crash and fire were inspired by an event that happened at the real Paris Opera House, where counterweights for the chandelier fell, killed one spectator, and injured many others. Gaston Leroux had been fascinated by this incident, and that is where this terrifying tale began.

The Phantom of the Opera is a tale of passion and unrequited love that will leave everyone forever hearing “the Music of the Night.”

​Anyway, read the book, watch the movie, and buy a ticket to the musical if you can.

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