“Masquerade… paper faces on parade. Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you!
The Phantom of the Opera (French: Le Fantôme de l’Opéra) is a serial novel by Gaston Leroux that was originally published in 1909 to 1910. Pierre Lafitte initially released it as a novel in April 2010.
The novel was inspired in part by historical events at the Paris Opera throughout the nineteenth century, as well as a fictitious story about Carl Maria von Weber’s 1841 performance of Der Freischütz, which included the use of a former ballet pupil’s skeleton.
The 1925 film adaptation starring Lon Chaney and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical are the most well-known.
Characters used in most renditions of this story
Other characters found in the original novel:
Meg Giry: Madame Giry’s only daughter, a ballet girl. Later becomes Mme. la Baronne de Castelot-Barbezac.
Joseph Buquet: The chief scene-shifter.Philippe, Comte de Chagny: Raoul’s older brother.
Debienne and Poligny: The previous managers of the opera house.
Mercier: The acting manager of the opera house.
Gabriel: The superstitious chorus master.
Mifroid: The commissary of police called in for Christine’s disappearance.
Remy: The manager’s secretary.
The inspector: An inspector hired to investigate the strange affairs concerning Box Five.
Shah and the sultan: The two kings that tried to kill Erik after he made them a palace.
La Sorelli: the lead ballerina, with whom Comte de Chagny spent time.
Little Jammes: A mentioned Ballerina at the Opera House.
The original Le Roux plot summary (contains spoilers)
Christine, an opera singer, triumphs at the gala on the night of the old managers’ retirement. Raoul, an old childhood friend, hears Christine sing and remembers his affections for Christine. There are rumors that a phantom is living at the Opera at this time, and he makes himself known to the managers through letters and nefarious activities. The Paris Opera, against the Phantom’s wishes, performs Faust following the gala, with the prima donna Carlotta in the lead. Carlotta loses her voice during the concert, and the grand chandelier crashes into the audience.
Christine is kidnapped and brought to the phantom’s lair in the Opera’s cellars, where he reveals his true identity to her as Erik, though not his full name. He intends to keep her there for a few days in the hopes that she would fall in love with him. Erik’s intentions are disrupted, however, when she unmasks him and reveals his nose-less, lipless, sunken-eyed visage, which resembles a dried-up skull wrapped in yellowed dead skin, much to their disgust. Fearing that she may abandon him, he resolves to keep her with him indefinitely; nevertheless, when Christine asks to be released after two weeks, he agrees on the condition that she wear his ring and stay devoted to him.
Christine tells Raoul on the roof of the opera building that Erik had abducted her. Raoul vows to transport Christine to a location where Erik will never be able to find her. Christine accepts when Raoul informs her that he will follow through on his promise the next day. She, on the other hand, feels sorry for Erik and refuses to leave until she has sung one last song for him. Neither of them is aware that Erik has been listening in on their conversation and has grown jealous.
Erik kidnaps Christine during a performance of Faust the next night and tries to force her to marry him. He threatens to destroy the opera house with explosives (which he has put in the cellars) if she refuses. Christine refuses until she realizes Erik has caught Raoul in a scorching torture chamber after learning of his attempt to save her (along with the Persian, an old acquaintance of Erik who was going to help Raoul). Christine agrees to marry Erik in order to save them and the people above them. Erik tries to drown Raoul with the water that was supposed to be used to douse the explosives.
Christine, on the other hand, begs and offers to be his “living bride,” promising him that she will not commit suicide after marrying him, as she had planned and attempted earlier in the novel. Raoul is eventually rescued from his torture dungeon by Erik. Erik lifts his mask to kiss Christine on the forehead when they are alone, and she returns the kiss. Erik is filled with emotion as he explains that he has never been allowed to offer or receive a kiss (not even from his own mother).
Erik permits them to flee, but only after Christine promises to pay him a visit on his deathbed and return the gold ring he gave her. He also asks her to pledge that she will go to the press and disclose his death after he dies. Christine does indeed return to Erik’s hideaway later, buries him, and returns the gold ring. Following that, a local newspaper publishes a brief notice that reads, “Erik is dead.”
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Stage musical plot summary (contains spoilers)
On the stage of the fictional Opéra Populaire in 1905, an auction of old theatrical props is underway. Lot 665, purchased by the elderly Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, is a papier-mâché music box in the shape of a monkey. He eyes it sadly, noting that its details appear “exactly as she said”. Lot 666 is a shattered chandelier that, the auctioneer explains, has a connection to “the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera, a mystery never fully explained”. As the chandelier is uncovered, its lamps flicker to life and it magically rises over the audience to its original position in the rafters. As it ascends, the years roll back and the Opéra returns to its 1880s grandeur. (“Overture”)
It is now 1881. As Carlotta, the Opéra’s resident soprano prima donna, rehearses for that evening’s performance, a backdrop collapses without warning. “The Phantom! He’s here!” the anxious cast members whisper. The Opera’s new owners, Firmin and André, try to downplay the incident, but Carlotta refuses to continue and storms offstage. Madame Giry, the Opéra’s ballet mistress, tells Firmin and André that Christine Daaé, a Swedish chorus girl and orphaned daughter of a prominent violinist, has been “well taught” and could sing Carlotta’s role. With cancellation of the performance their only alternative, the owners reluctantly audition Christine, and to their surprise she is equal to the challenge. (“Think of Me”)
Backstage after her triumphant début, Christine confesses to her best friend Meg (Madame Giry’s daughter) that she knows her mysterious teacher only as an invisible “Angel of Music” (“Angel of Music”). The Opera’s new patron, Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, finds Christine, his old childhood playmate, in her dressing room. (“Little Lotte”) Christine reminisces with Raoul about the “Angel of Music” stories that her late father used to tell them and confides that the Angel has visited her and taught her to sing. Raoul laughs at her “fantasies” and invites her to dinner. He exits and a jealous Phantom appears in Christine’s mirror in the guise of The Angel of Music. (“The Mirror/Angel of Music (Reprise)”) Christine begs him to reveal himself and The Phantom obliges, and then guides her into a ghostly underground realm. (“The Phantom of the Opera”)
They cross a subterranean lake to his secret lair beneath the opéra house. The Phantom explains that he has chosen Christine to sing his music and enchants her with his own sublime voice. (“The Music of the Night”) Christine sees a mannequin resembling herself in a wedding dress, and when the mannequin suddenly moves, she faints. The Phantom picks her up and places her gently on a bed.
As the Phantom composes music at his organ, Christine awakens to the sound of the monkey music box. (“I Remember…”) She slips behind the Phantom, lifts his mask, and beholds his real face. The Phantom rails at her curiosity, and then ruefully expresses his longing to look normal—and to be loved by her. (“Stranger Than You Dreamt It”)
Meanwhile, inside the opéra house, Joseph Buquet, the Opéra’s chief stagehand—who, like Madame Giry, inexplicably knows much about the Phantom—regales everyone with tales of the “Opéra Ghost” and his terrible Punjab lasso. (“Magical Lasso”) Madame Giry warns Buquet to exercise restraint. In the managers’ office, Madame Giry delivers a note from the Phantom: He demands that Christine replace Carlotta in the new opera, Il Muto, or there will be a terrible disaster “beyond imagination”. (“Notes…”) Firmin and André assure the enraged Carlotta that she will remain the star, (“Prima Donna”) but during her performance, (“Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh”) the Phantom reduces her voice to a frog-like croak. A ballet interlude begins, to keep the audience entertained—but a series of menacing shadows can be seen on the backdrop. Suddenly the corpse of Buquet, hanging from the Punjab lasso, drops from the rafters. Firmin and André plead for calm as the Phantom’s diabolical laughter is heard.
In the ensuing mêlée, Christine escapes with Raoul to the roof, where she tells him about her subterranean rendezvous with the Phantom. Raoul is skeptical, (“Why Have You Brought Me Here?/Raoul, I’ve Been There”) but swears to love and to protect her always. (“All I Ask of You”) The Phantom, who has overheard their conversation, is heartbroken. As he angrily vows revenge against Raoul, (“All I Ask of You (Reprise”) the Opéra’s mighty chandelier crashes to the stage as the curtain falls.
Six months later, in the midst of the gala masquerade ball, the Phantom, costumed as the Red Death, makes his first appearance since the chandelier disaster. (“Masquerade/Why So Silent?”) He announces to the stunned guests that he has written an opera entitled Don Juan Triumphant. He demands that it be produced immediately, with Christine (who is now engaged to Raoul) in the lead role, and warns of dire consequences if it is not. He seizes Christine’s engagement ring and vanishes in a flash of fire and smoke. Raoul demands that Madame Giry tell him about the Phantom. She reluctantly replies that he is a brilliant musician and magician born with a terrifyingly deformed face, who escaped from captivity in a traveling freak show and disappeared.
During rehearsals, Raoul hatches a plan to use Don Juan Triumphant as a trap to capture the Phantom, knowing the Phantom will be sure to attend its première. (“Notes/Twisted Every Way”) Christine, torn between her love for Raoul and her gratitude for the Phantom’s teaching, visits her father’s grave, longing for his guidance. (“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”) The Phantom appears, again under the guise of the Angel of Music. (“Wandering Child”) Christine nearly falls under his spell, but Raoul arrives to rescue her. The Phantom taunts Raoul, launching fiery missiles at him, (“Bravo Monsieur”) until Christine begs Raoul to leave with her. Furious, the Phantom sets fire to the cemetery.
Don Juan Triumphant opens with Christine and Ubaldo Piangi, the Opéra’s principal tenor, singing the lead roles. (“Don Juan”) During their duet, Christine suddenly realizes that she is singing not with Piangi, but with the Phantom himself. (“The Point of No Return”) He expresses his love for her and gives her his ring, but Christine rips off his mask, exposing his deformed face to the shocked audience. As Piangi is found strangled to death backstage, the Phantom seizes Christine and flees the theatre. An angry mob led by Meg searches the theatre for the Phantom, while Madame Giry directs Raoul to the Phantom’s subterranean lair, and warns him to beware his Punjab lasso.
In the lair Christine is forced to don the doll’s wedding dress. (“Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer”) Raoul arrives, but the Phantom captures him with his lasso. He tells Christine that he will free Raoul if she agrees to stay with him forever; if she refuses, Raoul will die. (“Final Lair”) Christine tells the Phantom that it is his soul that is deformed, not his face, and kisses him. The Phantom, having experienced kindness and compassion for the first time, sets them both free. Christine returns the Phantom’s ring to him, and he tells her he loves her. She cries, forces herself to turn away, and exits with Raoul. The Phantom, weeping, huddles on his throne and covers himself with his cape. The mob storms the lair and Meg pulls away the cape—but the Phantom has vanished; only his mask remains.