January 2, 2008

The Phantom of the Opera

Posted in Classics of World Literature at 2:50 pm by j128

(One of) the new covers of \"The Phantom of the Opera\"

The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux was published from September 23, 1909 to January 8, 1910 as a serialization in George De Maurier’s Tribly. It was published in English in 1911. Gaston Leroux wrote other stories such as The Yellow Room, a mystery novel, after suddenly departing from journalism, but in the English-speaking world he is best known as the author of The Phantom of the Opera.

The Phantom of the Opera has been adapted many times for the screen, children’s books, plays, and even one episode of the television show Wishbone.

Summary

The story is set in late nineteenth-century Paris, France. Within an opera of Paris, there is a legend of a phantom – even more so, a myth. The proprietors of the opera believe so deeply in this phantom that they always leave a specified sum of money (20,000 francs) for the ghost and its own box (Box Five) for every show, though there is no evidence of O.G. (Opera Ghost) ever appearing. Despite the lack of evidence, it has been discovered that any failure in accomadating or displeasing O.G. leads to it wreaking chaos and havoc taking appearance in an unexplained accident or occurance. When the two new proprietors arrive, they discount everything the employees say about the Phantom, and refuse to give in to seemingly empty threats.

The protagonist of the novel is Raoul, the Vicomte de Changy, and who has been in love with Christine Daae since childhood. He has one older brother, Phillipe Georges Marie Comte de Changy and in the original novel, two sisters are mentioned once. While Raoul seems to act on impulse, his older brother acts on reason and logic, and tries to restrain his younger brother on sometimes rash decisions.

When Raoul and Christine Daee meet again, Christine is an opera singer, and she is instructed by an “Angel of Music”, which she does not tell to Raoul until later. When Christine was growing up, her father often told of an “Angel of Music” that was to come to a promising person at some time of his life, and teach him about music. The “Angel of Music” in question gives her lessons through the walls of her dressing room and Christine rapidly develops her voice skills and becomes prominent on stage when she is selected to replace the currant prima donna Carlotta, whose act is sabotaged by the Phantom. Christine out-sings Carlotta and wins the hearts of the audience, including that of Raoul.

The “Angel of Music”, Christine discovers, is nobody but the Phantom of the Opera. She learns this when Erik (the Phantom) takes her to his underground lair out of jealousy of her relationship with Raoul. During the construction of the opera, it became necessary to pump underground water from the foundation pit, which created a huge subterreanean lake. Christine is naturally terrified especially as she finds that Erik is not angelic at all – indeed, he is physically deformed as well as malicious, volatile, and dangerous, and a brilliant genius as well as being the best ventriloquist ever, as demonstrated. She discovers Erik’s physical defomities when she removes his mask out of curiosity. Erik is outraged at first and threatens Christine that he shall keep her in his lair forever, however, he does forgive her somewhat and he releases her, promising that she can come back whenever she wishes to.

Meanwhile, Raoul has become suspicious of Christine and her “Angel of Music”. He is also envious when, after her performance, hears her succumb to a disembodied voice in her dressing room, and suspects another man has taken advantage of Christine’s innocent belief in the “Angel of Music,” and is using it to seduce her. Accordingly, he begins spying on her in her dressing room to learn who the mysterious person is and where the disembodied voice comes from.

These excursions of spying are eventually discovered by Christine and she is very angry but when realizing Raoul was only doing it out of the goodness of his heart, she tells all that has happened between her and Erik. Raoul develops a spitefullness for the Phantom and he and Christine plan to elope from Paris and the “horror of Erik.” Unfortunately for them, Erik eavesdrops upon their conversation, and does the greatest feat yet by abducting Christine during her final performance as Margarita in Gounad’s Faust as she was appealing to the angels to send her soul to Heaven.

Raoul suspects the action to be the Phantom’s doing and goes to Christine’s rescue, being guided by another mysterious character only known as the Persian Daroga Nadir, who had saved Erik’s life once. Together, Raoul and the Persian go into the dark depths of the underground of the opera. Unfortunately, the route that they took leads them to the torture chamber (a catoptric cistula), which they become trapped in.

While in the torture chamber, they learn that Erik has made a deal with Christine: that he will kill everybody and himself with everybody unless she consents to being his wife. It is a terrible decision and she only has until the next evening at eleven o’clock to decide and in the meantime, Raoul and the Persian are to be silent lest they are discovered in the torture chamber…

Links

The Phantom of the Opera and its various adaptations, etc. on Answers.com

The Phantom of the Opera on Project Gutenberg

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