The Phantom of the Opera

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The Phantom of the Opera, German first edition, Albert Langen, Munich, 1912

The Phantom of the Opera (French original title: Le Fantôme de l'Opéra ) is a novel by the French journalist and writer Gaston Leroux , which was published in sequels in the newspaper Le Gaulois from 23 September 1909 to 8 January 1910. The story has been filmed several times, and there are also four stage versions of the play. The best-known arrangement of the material is the musical of the same name by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe .

the novel

The setting for the story is the Paris Opéra Garnier in the 1880s. There is a groundwater collection basin under the building, which was chosen because of the high groundwater level. The labyrinthine nature of the building, as suggested in the novel, also corresponds to the circumstances.

main characters

Erik / The Phantom of the Opera
The phantom is the main character of the novel and is both a musical and a technical genius. Erik, as he is called by name in the novel, is severely disfigured from birth. In Leroux's novel he is described as a "corpse without a nose", with deeply sunken eyes, sunken cheeks, yellowish, parchment-like skin and only a few tufts of brown hair on the head and behind the ears. On the run from the contempt of the people, Erik made himself a home in the cellars of the opera, which he was also involved in building. There he lives in his secret rooms and, as the phantom of the opera, claims box no. 5 and a monthly salary of 20,000 francs from the owners of the opera.
Christine Daaé
Christine Daaé is a simple choir girl who is promoted to a soloist and thus to a celebrated opera star by the phantom. She is the daughter of Gustav Daaé, a famous Swedish violinist who died at the time of the happenings in the opera. At first she believes that she has found the “angel of music” in the phantom, whom her late father promised to send to her shortly before his death so that he could teach her to sing.
Raoul, Viscount de Chagny
Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, is the youngest member of an old French aristocratic family. He once received violin lessons from Christine's father, and from him the children also heard the story of the angel of music. At the beginning of the novel, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, comes back to Paris as a patron of the opera, where he and Christine meet again after a long time and fall in love.


Just in time for the change of directors, a big gala takes place in the Paris Opera. A previously unknown singer shines there: Christine Daaé. At the same time the body of the stage worker Joseph Buquet is found. The ballet girls speculate that this was the act of the Phantom of the Opera, which has been around for some time.

Among those present at the gala are Philippe, Comte de Chagny, and his 20 years younger brother Raoul, who recognizes Christine as his childhood friend and goes to her cloakroom. There Christine pretends not to recognize Raoul and asks him to leave. But no sooner has Raoul left the cloakroom than he hears a man's voice talking to Christine. When Christine leaves, Raoul rushes back into the cloakroom, but finds it empty.

In the meantime, the new directors Richard and Moncharmin learn of the existence of the phantom, who received 20,000 francs a month from the old management and always from Lodge 5 for his personal use. However, the new directors consider this to be a bad joke by their predecessors, and so box 5 is rented out that same evening and the performance is disturbed by a loud laugh. One interrogates the locker of Lodge 5, Madame Giry, who can divulge some details about the phantom. The phantom had promised her to make her daughter Meg empress.

In the meantime Christine has traveled to Perros Guirec, the vacation spot of her childhood. Her late father was buried there. The Phantom has promised her to play the violin at her father's grave, La Resurrection de Lazare . Christine informs Raoul of her whereabouts in a letter. Raoul follows her. In the cemetery he actually hears the violin, but he is knocked down in front of the sacristy.

Days later, a horse disappears from the opera's own stables without a trace. Richard and Moncharmin are now attending a performance of Gounod's opera Faust in Loge 5 because the house is sold out. In addition, instead of Christine, as the phantom requested, the prima donna of the house, Carlotta, was put in the role of Margaret. The phantom takes revenge: his voice can be heard in the box, Carlotta begins to croak on the stage, the huge chandelier falls from the ceiling into the auditorium and kills a concierge.

After the momentous evening, Christine disappears for two weeks. Raoul is worried and tries to get information about Christine from the directors, but they are far too preoccupied with themselves and the aftermath of the Lüster accident. They just explain that Christine is sick. Raoul visits Christine's foster mother. She explains to him that the girl had been visited by the good spirit of music, the "angel of music", whom her father promised to send her before his death. Raoul also learns from his brother Philippe that Christine was seen in a carriage accompanied by a man. Raoul feels miserable, but the next morning he receives a letter from Christine, who asks him to come to the masquerade ball in a domino - under no circumstances should he be recognized.

He meets Christine at the masquerade ball, but the phantom also hangs around there, disguised as Red Death. Christine is scared and confesses to Raoul that she loves him, and if he loves her too, he should stay away from the phantom. Raoul later witnesses Christine disappearing through the mirror and following the male voice from which he can hear the name (Erik).

The next day, Raoul meets with Christine in her apartment. He discovers that Christine is wearing a gold ring and confesses to Christine that he has noticed her disappearance and the voice. When he throws the name "Erik" at her head during an argument, she reacts over-anxious and asks Raoul to forget the name. There was a terrible secret behind the whole thing.

From now on, Christine and Raoul meet regularly at the opera, eventually even getting engaged, as Christine believes that she will never be able to marry Raoul if he goes on a polar expedition in a month. On the roof of the opera, Christine Raoul finally tells of her secret: She was taught by a voice that posed as the angel of the muse. After the chandelier crashed, this angel took her with him and turned out to be an ordinary man with a mask named Erik.

Erik confesses his love to Christine five floors below the opera in his realm. While they sing together, Christine unmasks Erik and discovers his horribly disfigured face. "Now imagine, if you can, that a skull suddenly comes to life to express its violent rage, its demonic anger, with the four black holes of its eyes, its nose, its mouth, while its eye sockets are blind, because as I found out later, you can only see his glowing eyes in the dead of night. ”Erik angrily threatens Christine and now he will never let her go again. Only when Christine can pretend that Erik believes that she is no longer afraid of him does he finally let her go.

When Christine and Raoul now hear sighs and are sure that they are not alone on the roof, they flee. An unknown, foreign man who has been hanging around the opera for a long time and is only called "the Persian" helps them. Raoul and Christine want to flee Paris, but when Christine appears again as Margarete the next day, she is kidnapped on the open stage. With the help of the Persian, who turns out to be Erik's old acquaintance, Raoul gets into the vaults of the opera and finally into Erik's realm - however, both men are trapped and wrestled in the torture chamber of the phantom, a kind of mirror cabinet that drives the senses crazy now with death. Philippe de Chagny, who followed his brother, is mysteriously killed in the underground lake.

Erik shows Christine a box with two figures in it. He asks her to decide: the scorpion, if she wants to stay with him as his wife, or the grasshopper, which Erik says “makes a good move”, and the whole opera is destroyed by a huge explosion. Christine wants to free the two men from the torture chamber and so ultimately chooses life with Erik. Little did she suspect that almost the entire torture chamber and her lover would be flooded. In the end Christine succeeds in convincing Erik, so that he lets the Persian and Raoul their lives.

When Raoul regains consciousness, Christine moves through Erik's house like a willless doll and no longer reacts to anything except Erik, who now only calls her "my wife". The two men are released. Christine is also released after allowing Erik to kiss her forehead. Erik dies shortly after of a broken heart. Christine and Raoul take a train north.

Meaning and reception

The Phantom of the Opera is a classic horror novel that unfortunately cannot leave Erik's character much (obvious) charm. Only in the last scenes is it possible to identify with the character and to sympathize with him. Nevertheless, this is the novel that has inspired many other cultural workers and laid the foundation for a very lively subculture of fans of its own.

The German philosopher, cultural critic and translator Walter Benjamin said of the book, referring to the genre of the detective novel:

"With the» Phantom of the Opera «, one of the great novels of the nineteenth century, Gaston Leroux helped this genre to apotheosis ."

German translations

A first German-language edition of the novel was published in 1912 by Albert Langen Verlag in the translation by Rudolf Brettschneider and in 1928 as a paperback edition in the Gelben Ullstein paperbacks. In 1968 the Hanser-Verlag , Munich, published a translation by Johannes Piron in its Bibliotheca Dracula . The latter has been the only German transmission to this day (2015) and is mostly published together with the afterword by Richard Alewyn , which was added in 1968 .


Film adaptations

Lon Chaney as Erik in the 1925 silent film

The novel was filmed several times. The first film was made in Germany in 1915, with Nils Chrisander (1884–1947) as the Phantom of the Opera and Aud Egede-Nissen (1893–1974) as Christine Daaé. Many critics consider the film adaptation from 1925 , by Carl Laemmle's studio Universal Pictures , to be the most successful. Lon Chaney played the role of the phantom . The same studio tried to build on this success in 1943 with a sound film by Arthur Lubin . The film used to a large extent the still existing backdrops of the silent film. Claude Rains played the phantom.

In 1960 a Spanish company made a very free adaptation of the subject under the title El Fantasma de la Operetta . In 1962, the British production company Hammer Films, geared towards the horror genre, took on the subject. Another film adaptation of the material took place in 1974 by 20th Century Fox , which moved the events to New York and changed the plot significantly. This film was released as The Phantom of the Paradise . The 1989 version, tellingly with Freddy Krueger actor Robert Englund in the title role, focused on the phantom's potential for violence. In contrast, in the same year a German-French-Italian-American co-production was made into a two-part TV series that placed the melodramatic love story in the foreground and dispensed with splatter effects for television . The phantom embodied Charles Dance here . In 1998, the famous Italian horror film director Dario Argento took on the subject with Julian Sands in the lead role, but was not particularly successful at the box office.

Finally, in 2004, a film version was created under the direction of Joel Schumacher , based on the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Here Gerard Butler played the role of the phantom. Originally, there was to be a film based on the musical as early as the early 1990s, with the main actors of the premiere: Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman as Christine. Brightman was then married to Lloyd Webber, but shortly before the scheduled pre-production, the marriage broke up and the filming was canceled.

Popular film adaptations

year title genre Original title Director Title role
1916 The Phantom of the Opera Silent film - drama The Phantom of the Opera Ernst Matray Nils Chrisander
1925 The Phantom of the Opera Horror silent film, The Phantom of the Opera Rupert Julian Lon Chaney Sr.
1937 Ye ban ge sheng Horror movie Ye ban ge sheng Ma-Xu Weibang Menghe Gu
1943 Phantom of the opera Horror, music film Phantom of the Opera Arthur Lubin Claude Rains
1962 The mystery of the eerie mask Horror movie The Phantom of the Opera Terence Fisher Herbert Lom
1983 The Phantom of Budapest Horror movie Phantom of the Opera Robert Markowitz Maximilian Schell
1987 The Phantom of the Opera Cartoon The Phantom of the Opera Al Guest , Jean Mathieson Aiden Grennell
1989 The Phantom of the Opera Horror movie Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera Dwight H. Little Robert Englund
1990 The Phantom of the Opera Drama miniseries Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera Tony Richardson Charles Dance
1998 The Phantom of the Opera Horror movie Il Fantasma dell'opera Dario Argento Julian Sands
2004 The Phantom of the Opera Musical adaptation The Phantom of the Opera Joel Schumacher Gerard Butler

Free adaptations

year title Original title Director Title role
1974 The phantom of Hollywood The Phantom of Hollywood Gene Levitt Jack Cassidy
1974 The phantom in paradise Phantom of the Paradise Brian De Palma William Finley
1989 Phantom Nightmare - Phantom of Death Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge Richard Friedman Derek Rydall
1989 Phantom of the Ritz Phantom of the Ritz Allen Plone Joshua Sussman

Radio plays

Audio books

Stage processing

Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux, there are some adaptations of the Phantom material for the stage.

  • Das Phantom der Oper (Original title: The Phantom of the Opera )
    • Musical in two acts
    • Music : Andrew Lloyd Webber
    • Book : Richard Stilgoe , Andrew Lloyd Webber based on the novel by G. Leroux
    • Lyrics : Charles Hart , Richard Stilgoe
    • Director of the original production: Harold Prince
    • World premiere : October 9, 1986, Her Majesty's Theater , London (previews from September 27, 1986)
    • Broadway Premiere : Jan 26, 1988, Majestic Theater , New York
    • German-language premiere : December 20, 1988, Theater an der Wien , Vienna
    • Note : The musical version by Andrew Lloyd Webber is the internationally best known and most successful stage adaptation of the Phantom story. It has received seven Tony Awards on Broadway , the most important American award for theatrical performances. The Phantom of the Opera has been extremely successful in the same theaters in London and Broadway for over a quarter of a century. It is not to be confused with the other two theatrical versions of the novel (mentioned below).
  • phantom
    • Musical in two acts
    • Music and lyrics : Maury Yeston
    • Book : Arthur Kopit based on the novel by G. Leroux
    • World premiere : January 25, 1991, Theater Under the Stars, Houston / Texas
    • German premiere : October 1, 1992, Stadttheater Rüsselsheim
    • Note : This version differs greatly from the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber in terms of the music and adaptation of the original material. The authors of this musical sometimes stray far from the specifications of the original story, for example with regard to the person constellations or the representation of the phantom. The “ghostly” side hardly comes into play compared to the book. From the start, it is the human side of the phantom that is emphasized in this piece. - In the 1990s this musical was shown as a tour production in various German cities. In 2004, the Japanese Takarazuka Revue re-enacted the Kopit and Yeston version and achieved audience numbers on a par with the Webber Phantom.
  • The Phantom of the Opera
    • Music : various composers (see note)
    • Lyrics : Ken Hill
    • Book : Ken Hill based on the novel by G. Leroux
    • World premiere : 7 May 1984, Royal Theater, London-Stratford
    • Note : The music in this version was based on various opera excerpts by WA Mozart, Charles Gounod, Jacques Offenbach, and others. a., compiled. The vocal parts were, however, rewritten by Ken Hill according to the progress of the Phantom story. This piece was also shown as a touring production in Germany in the 1990s.
  • The first stage adaptation of the material was attempted in 1975 by the British The Actors Company . The success was modest, partly because of the large number of secondary scenes. The piece only became “cult” in the early 1990s and is occasionally on a musical tour in Germany.
  • The Phantom of the Opera - play by Cornelia Wagner - was published by Deutsches Theaterverlag, Weinheim (2007)
  • The Phantom of Paris - the first worldwide continuation of the musical material was composed in 2006 by the former RW Fassbinder composer Peer Raben on the basis of the libretto by Volker Führer and Axel Schulß - the producer was Jacarandá Edições Artisticas Lda. for Stracke-Interworld Production , the touring theater, which was on tour in Germany for years with the above-mentioned version of Kopit and Yeston.
  • The Phantom of the Opera
    • Musical in 16 pictures
    • Music : Arndt Gerber
    • Text : Paul Wilhelm based on the novel by Gaston Leroux
    • World premiere : March 11, 1997, Donauhalle, Donaueschingen
    • Note : In this version, the Phantom story was originally processed in German for the first time. As an artistic counter-position to the version by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Paul Wilhelm places more value on the spoken word. The Central Musical Company has been touring Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland with this version for over fifteen years.


  • Christoph F. Lorenz: The world of opera - the opera as a world. Gaston Leroux '"Le Fantòme de l'Opéra". In: (ders.): Art pieces. Critical hikes through the adventurous and fantastic literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. The blue owl, Essen 1994 (= German studies in the blue owl; 17), ISBN 3-89206-120-3 , pp. 101-114
  • Hans T. Siepe: Adventure and Mystery. Investigations into the structures and myths of the popular novel by Gaston Leroux . Frankfurt a. M .: Peter Lang 1988, ISBN 978-3820409772 , pp. 130-146.
  • Raj Shah: No Ordinary Skeleton: Unmasking the Secret Source of Gaston Leroux's "Le Fantôme de l'Opéra" . Forum for Modern Language Studies 50.1 (2014). ISSN  0015-8518 , pp. 16-29.
  • Raj Shah: The Publication and Initial French Reception of Gaston Leroux's “Le Fantôme de l'Opéra” . French Studies Bulletin 37.138 (2016), ISSN  0262-2750 , pp. 13-16.

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