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PhantomBookCover

Front cover of a 1920 French edition of the novel.

The Phantom of the Opera (French: Le Fantôme de l'Opéra) is a novel by the French author Gaston Leroux. It was first published in book form in 1910, having originally been published as a serial in the newspaper Le Gaulois between September 23, 1909 and January 8, 1910. The first English translation of the novel was published in 1911. The Phantom of the Opera was out of print for much of the 20th century but was adapted numerous times during that period. The best known adaptations are the 1925 silent movie which stars Lon Chaney as the Phantom and the 1986 Andrew Lloyd-Webber stage musical.

The Phantom of the title is an extremely talented but hideously ugly man who hides his ugliness beneath a mask and calls himself Erik. Erik lives beneath the Paris Opera House and is able to move freely around the building because he is believed by most people who work in the theater to be a ghost that haunts it. Erik does not appear to know the difference between right and wrong and is prepared to use extortion, intimidation and murder to get what he wants.

The novel deals primarily with Erik's relationship with Christine Daae, a beautiful and talented young opera singer with whom the Phantom falls in love.

Plot

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Tomasz Sleciuk appears as the Phantom of the Opera in Warsaw, Poland on October 30, 2008.

The Phantom of the Opera opens with an introduction that says that the ghostly goings at the Paris Opera House in the 1880s are well known but that the Phantom responsible for them was not a ghost but a flesh and blood person. The novel then moves on to tell the life story of Christine Daae. Christine, the daughter of a talented violinist, is born in Sweden but moves to rural France when she is six. She meets and befriends Raoul, a boy from an aristocratic family. The two children enjoy hearing stories about the Angel of Music from Christine's father. While she is still a little girl, Christine's father dies. He promises on his deathbed to send the Angel of Music from heaven to help his daughter.

Christine eventually finds work at the Paris Opera House. Soon after her arrival, she starts to hear a voice that sings and speaks to her. When Christine asks the voice if it is the Angel of Music, it tells Christine that it is and offers to teach her some heavenly music. The voice is really that of Erik, the Phantom of the Opera. With Erik's help, Christine's voice improves. She sings at a gala performance and is a great success. Raoul, now the Viscount of Chagny, is in the audience and remembers his love for Christine.

For many years the Phantom has been extorting money from the Opera House management and demanding that box number five be left free for him at all times, he threatens severe consequences if his demands are not met. Two new managers have recently taken control of the Opera House and refuse to give in to the demands of a ghost. As a result, La Carlotta the prima donna appears to croak like a toad during a performance (the sound is really coming from Erik who considers himself to be the greatest ventriloquist in the world) before a chandelier comes crashing down into the audience. The Phantom abducts Christine during the chaos that ensues.

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Lon Chaney as the Phantom in the 1925 silent film The Phantom of the Opera.

Erik tells Christine that he was her Angel of Music. His initial plan is to keep the young woman with him for a few weeks, in the hope that she will fall in love with him during that time. Christine finds herself becoming attracted to the Phantom but everything changes when she takes off his mask and sees that he has a face like a rotting corpse. Erik is furious and yells that Christine probably thinks that his face is another mask. Christine is forced to touch his face so that she will know it is real. Erik decides to make Christine stay with him forever but allows her to leave after two weeks, providing that she wears his ring and promises to remain faithful to him.

Christine tells Raoul of her unpleasant experiences. He says that he will take her far away, where the Phantom will never find her. However, Christine feels sorry for Erik and wants to sing on stage for him one last time. She does not know that Erik was listening to her conversation with Raoul and has become madly jealous. He abducts Christine again, demanding that she become his wife. He tells her that he has hidden explosives beneath the Opera House and will blow up the building, killing everyone inside, if she refuses to marry him.

A turbaned man, known to everyone in the Opera House as the Persian, approaches Raoul. He explains that he was a police inspector in his own country and that Erik is an old adversary of his. Raoul and the Persian set off to rescue Christine from Erik's underground lair but are captured and imprisoned in a torture chamber.

When Christine learns that Raoul and the Persian have been taken prisoner by the Phantom, she agrees to marry him on the condition that he frees them. Erik lifts his mask to kiss Christine's forehead. He is moved to tears when Christine kisses him back. He says that he has never been kissed by anyone before, not even his own mother. He allows Christine to leave and advises her to marry Raoul.

Erik visits the Persian and says that he will never bother anybody ever again. Three weeks later a Parisian newspaper carries an announcement that simply reads, "Erik is dead".

Adaptations

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Poster for the 1925 silent movie version of The Phantom of the Opera.

Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera has been adapted numerous times for the stage, film, radio and television. Other authors have written novels that serve as prequels or sequels to Leroux's story and provide a more detailed backstory for some of its characters. Some adaptations have played up the horror aspects of the novel, others have placed more emphasis on music or romance.

In 1925 Universal Pictures released a silent movie version of The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney as Erik. A detailed copy of the Paris Opera House was built for the movie. The silent movie's plot follows that of Leroux's novel quite closely but it is given a more dramatic ending. After the release of Raoul and the police inspector (not a Persian in this version), Erik abducts Christine again and leaves with her in a stolen carriage. An angry mob follows them. They drag Erik from the carriage, beat him to death and throw his body into the river Seine. Largely as a result of the success of The Phantom of the Opera , Universal continued to make many more horror movies throughout the 1930s and 1940s, including adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula (1931), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1931) and H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man (1933).

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Susanna Foster and Nelson Eddy in a screenshot from the trailer for the 1943 film Phantom of the Opera,

The Phantom of the Opera was remade in color by Universal in 1943. The set built for the 1925 version was used again for the remake. The Phantom in the 1943 version (played by Claude Rains) is originally a violinist at the Paris Opera House named Erique Claudin. After twenty years, Claudin is forced to leave his job as a result of pains in his hands which are affecting his ability to play. He is running out of cash because he has secretly been paying for Christine DuBois' singing lessons for several years. In order to earn some money, Claudin takes a concerto that he has written to a publisher. When he visits the publisher again, Claudin is told that his concerto has been lost. Hearing his music coming from another room, Claudin, wrongly believing that the publisher has stolen his work, attacks and kills him. The publisher's female assistant comes in and throws acid in Claudin's face. In Gaston Leroux's novel, Erik is hideously ugly from birth. The 1942 movie is the first adaptation to introduce the concept of acid disfiguring the Phantom's face, now a standard component of the Phantom of the Opera legend.

Hammer Film Productions, the British film company famous for its horror movies made between the 1950s and 1970s, including several based around the characters of Count Dracula and Victor Frankenstein and three different movie versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, released an adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera in 1962. The movie was directed by Ternce Fisher and stars Herbert Lom as the Phantom. The action is moved from 19th century Paris to Victorian London. The Phantom is originally a music teacher called Professor Petrie. He approaches Lord Ambrose D'Arcy for help in getting his music published but the aristocrat tries to pass Petrie's music off as his own. Petrie breaks into the printers that is publishing his music under Lord D'Arcy's name to burn every copy. A fire starts, Petrie throws what he thinks is water, but is really acid, on the fire, Some acid splashes back in his face and scars him. He runs out of the burning building and jumps into the river Thames. The river carries him to a cavern beneath the opera house where a nameless mute dwarf cares for him. The Phantom in the 1962 movie is supposed to be an entirely sympathetic character. He does not kill anybody, the dwarf assistant, who the Phantom says he has difficulty controlling, carries out all of the murders. The Phantom's entire face is covered by a gray mask which leaves only one eye visible in the Hammer version. His face, which is revealed shortly before the end of the movie, is not as ugly as his mask.

Brian De Palma's 1974 movie Phantom of the Paradise is a loose adaptation of the novel, updated to the world of 1970s pop music, which also references Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Singer and composer Winslow Leech is cheated and framed for drug dealing by record producer Swan. Leech escapes from prison and breaks into Swan's studio, where an accident with a record press leaves him with a disfigured face and without the ability to speak. The masked Leech terrorizes customers and staff at Swan's nightclub The Paradise, until Swan, who is revealed to have sold his soul to the Devil so that photographs of him age while he remains young, offers to make a deal with him.

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The Phantom is unmasked, from a 2010 performance of the Andrew Llloyd-Webber musical.

Robert Englund stars as the Phantom in a 1989 movie version of The Phantom of the Opera directed by Dwight H. Little. A supernatural element is introduced into the story, in which the Phantom, Erik Dessler, sells his soul to the Devil to become a famous composer. Dessler is told by the Devil that people will love him for his music but only for his music and he immediately becomes horribly disfigured. The movie begins in present-day New York where an aspiring Broadway singer named Christine Day sings some of Erik Dessler's music at an audition. A sandbag hits her on the head and she wakes up in Victorian London. Christine returns to the present at the end of the movie and finds Erik Dessler, wearing a prosthetic face, still alive.

The 1986 musical, with music by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and book by Lloyd-Webber, Charlie Hart and Richard Stilgoe, is the most successful stage adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera. It has been performed in one hundred and forty-nine cities in twenty-five countries, is the longest running Broadway production in history and the second longest running production in the history of London's West End. It won an Olivier Award in London in 1986 and a Tony Award in New York in 1988. A movie based on the musical, directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Gerard Butler as the Phantom, was released in 2004.

External links

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