The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

I’ve never actually seen the musical or watched the movie, but I still had some general idea in my head of what the story was like. I had some idea of a romantic love story. Apparently I was wrong. It’s more like a horror story.

Leroux presents this as a true story, that he has researched in depth. After having spoken with some of the main characters and reviewed the written records, he is ready to present the actual story of the scandal.

The Opera ghost really existed. He was not, as was long believed, a creature of the imagination of the artists, the superstition of the managers, or a product of the absurd and impressionable brains of the young ladies of the ballet, their mothers, the box-keepers, the cloak-room attendants or the concierge. Yes, he existed in flesh and blood, although he assumed the complete appearance of a real phantom; that is to say, of a spectral shade.

For those of you who may not know, the plot is fairly easy to sum up.

Christine Daaé is a singer at the Paris Opera House. Not long after she arrives there, she begins hearing a voice which sings to her and speaks to her. She believes this must be the Angel of Music, but the voice belongs to Erik, a disfigured genius who secretly built into the cellars of the Opera House a home for himself. He is the Opera ghost who has been extorting money from the Opera’s management for many years and he has fallen in love with Christine.

Raoul, the Viscount de Chagny, a childhood friend of Christine is also in love with her. The rest of the story centers on how each of the men act on their love. Raoul pledges to take Christine away from the Opera House, to a place Erik will never find her.  In response, Erik, who is definitely psychotic, kidnaps Christine and threatens her life and the lives of others if she does not marry him.

I give you five minutes to spare your blushes. Here is the little bronze key that opens the ebony caskets on the mantle piece in the Louise-Phillipe room. In one of the caskets you will find a scorpion, in the other, a grasshopper, both very cleverly imitated in Japanese bronze: they will say yes or no for you. If you turn the scorpion round, that will mean to me, when I return that you have said yes. The grasshopper will mean no… The grasshopper, be careful of the grasshopper! A grasshopper does not only turn: it hops! It hops! And it hops jolly high!

Raoul of course is determined to rescue her and we can fast forward to a more or less happy ending, at least for Christine and Raoul.

Raoul is not the hero I expected. He’s very emotional and I sincerely doubt that he would still be alive if it weren’t for the invaluable help of a man known as “The Persian,” who has apparently been keeping an eye on Erik for years. The Persian leads him through the cellars to Erik’s house and helps him stay alive while trapped in the torture chamber, a scene that I didn’t expect by the way. I had never heard of a torture chamber in connection with the Phantom of the Opera. Erik is a disfigured man, but beyond that he really is a horrible monster, not only a musical genius, but also an architect who has designed torture chambers, a killer who’s specialty is strangling people with the Punjab lasso, a ventriloquist, a manipulator, a master of trap-doors. Yes, he wants to be loved, but I don’t have much sympathy for him. I honestly don’t think he would have been a wonderful person had it not been for the way he was treated due to his physical appearance. I think he would have just been a better-looking monster.

I never like the storyline where the girl or woman falls in love with a man who is basically stalking her. While Christine never truly falls in love with Erik, she does return to him again and again, sometimes by her own accord. Granted, the fact that she does care for him humanizes him in the end.

Overall, the story should be full of intrigue and romance, madness and mercy, but it fell flat for me. Maybe it would have been different if I were reading it instead of listening to the audio version, narrated by Ralph Cosham. I just never really cared about the characters. I knew Raoul and Christine were going to end up together somehow, but I wasn’t really invested in the plot.

I guess the musical is going to be at the Benedum in September. Maybe I should finally see it.

First published 1910
7 hours, 46 minutes

Challenges: 100+, A-Z

I borrowed my copy from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.