of The Opera
The Phantom of The Opera is a gothic novel - combining romance,
horror, mystery and tragedy.
Spoiler warning: Plot or ending details follow.
In Leroux's original 1910 novel, the setting is 19th century
Paris at the Opera Garnier, a luxurious and monumental building
which has been built over a huge underground lake. The employees
claim that the opera house is haunted by a mysterious ghost
who causes a variety of accidents. The "Opera Ghost"
("le fantôme de l'Opéra") blackmails
the two opera managers to pay him a monthly retainer of 20,000
francs and reserve for him a private concert booth.
Meanwhile, the young diva Christine Daaé (believed
to be inspired and guided by an Angel of Music supposedly
sent by her father) achieves sudden prominence on the opera
stage when she replaces the current prima donna Carlotta,
who has twice necessitated replacement due to a mysterious
illness. Christine wins the hearts of the audience, including
that of her childhood sweetheart, Vicomte Raoul de Chagny.
The Phantom then becomes envious of her relationship with
Raoul and invites her to visit him down in his world beneath
the edifice. Christine accepts, and down in the catacombs
learns that her angel is in actuality a deformed musical genius
who wears a mask to hide his abhorrent face. She screams in
horror once she beholds his true visage, and the Phantom locks
her in his home, agreeing to free her only after she promises
to return to him of her own free will.
Christine is torn between her love of young and charming
vicomte Raoul and her fascination with the Phantom's darkly
beautiful music. When she realizes that her angel is also
the Opera Ghost responsible for the accidents and murders,
she and Raoul decide to marry in secret and run away from
Paris -- and the Phantom's reach.
The Phantom discovers their plan and during Christine's performance
as Marguerite in Gounod's Faust, he abducts her from the stage.
Down in the Phantom's home, the last confrontation between
the Phantom, Christine and Raoul takes place.
Who Is the Phantom?
The Phantom was born as Erik in a small town not far from
Rouen, the son of a master-mason. He ran away at an early
age from his father's house, where his ugliness was a subject
of horror and terror to his parents. For a time, he frequented
the fairs, where a freak show showman exhibited him as the
"living corpse." He traveled around Europe and Asia
with the Gypsies. There he acquired his acrobatic and musical
skills and sharpened his twisted genius.
Eventually, he ended up as court assassin and personal-engineer
to the Persian Shah and built for him sophisticated traps
and torture devices (such as the Punjab Lasso). After some
time, the Shah feared that Erik knew too much and decided
to dispose of him. Erik managed to escape, eventually making
his way back to France.
Erik used his architectural genius skills and won a contract
as one of the architects of Paris' Palais Garnier Opera House.
Without anyone noticing, he pumped and drained the underground
water into an underground lake and built a maze of tunnel
and corridors. Past the underground lake he built a lair for
himself, where he could live protected from the public.
Besides being a brilliant inventor and engineer, Erik was
also a musical genius, and he started to visit the Opera House
in order to listen to operas and interfere with the manager's
bad taste. Because he could not show his face in public, he
took the guise of a ghost, using violence in order to blackmail
the Opera managers and bind them to his will. He exploited
the employees' superstitions and his knowledge about the building's
secret passages, allowing him access to every part of the
building without being noticed. He terrorized those who refused
his demands and even killed people as warnings. However, he
treated nicely those who were loyal to him and obeyed his
command (such as Madam Giry).
The story of the novel begins when a young chorus girl named
Christine Daaé joins the Opera's chorus and Erik, the
Phantom, falls in love.