Hit Broadway musical, award-winning, Tony Award for Best Musical in 1988… what more could you ask for? Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom Of The Opera” has made its return to many locations not just in New York City but around the world. More than the octaves, the romance between Christine and the Phantom of the Opera himself, the accolades are showcasing its success. It also won the 1986 Olivier and actor Michael Crawford was awarded Best Actor in both Olivier and Tony awards. Over 140 million have seen the show spanning across 35 countries and more than 150 cities worldwide. The total? Over 70 major theatrical awards.
Webber’s musical “The Phantom Of The Opera” had the composer, lyricist Charles Hart, and book writer Richard Stilgoe working together to tell the story of the Paris Opera House’s soprano Christine Daaé as the subject of the obsession of the Phantom, a “mysterious, disfigured” musical prodigy residing in the opera house’s subterranean labyrinth.
The category of the theatrical show is fiction musical, which means it is based on imagination and fantasy. So, the Paris Opera House. Perhaps almost every old building in a city, theater spaces, hospitals, schools, office structures, and more, has their own story of haunted locations. Rumors that it was once a cemetery, or the land where the building now stands was a former land of deceased people, and those sorts of things bring the idea that the Phantom at the Paris Opera House could be true.
In this article, you’ll get to know more about the award-winning musical in a different angle, a real-life opera performing center in France, and the possibility of a ghost that’s been haunting — or accompanying — theater actors and audiences alike.
Revisiting ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’
“The Phantom Of The Opera” is well-loved by viewers, not just theater fans, because of the story and how the romance is set in a dark genre with operatic music and stunning visuals. It begins in the 19th century at the Paris Opera House, with the Phantom revealing his schemes to court vocalist Christine in the theater space. He wears a mask to hide his disfigurement, which he has acquired genetically. However, Christine instead falls for arts patron Raoul. With this tangled love story, the Phantom then finds a way to keep the lady by his side, with Raoul interfering with the scheme. A mixture of mystery, tidbits of fun, and spectacle, this theatrical musical will never cease to haunt audiences in a positive way.
The very first presentation of “The Phantom of the Opera” happened as a preview of the first act in 1985, featuring actors Colm Wilkinson playing the Phantom, Sarah Brightman as Kristin (and later changed to Christine), and Clive Carter portraying Raoul. There were songs in this first preview that are no longer part of the score, but this included music like “What Has Time Done To Me,” the version of “Think Of Me,” and “Papers” for “Notes.” Also, this first preview had the Phantom’s mask covering his entire face instead of the half mask shown today.
The haunted opera house
Were the fans just being creative saying that there was a real phantom of the opera? Ghosts are elements that are part of the theory of the after-life. Unlike us, human beings, they seem to come from a different world. They may be true or not. However, online forums and discussion groups talk about whether there was a real-life phantom that haunted a theater house. Forum participant Amourdelafantom from The Literature Network Forums says that they even researched extensively on the musical, and found out that the Phantom “was real.” Even there’s an article published on popular website Bustle.com stating that “The Phantom Of The Opera” is based from a 1900s book that talks about a phantom at an opera house in Paris, and discusses themes about “toxic masculinity.”
According to Martin Knowlden’s book “The Phantom of the Opera Companion,” it was Lloyd Weber himself who suggested they base the story from a book titled “The Phantom of the Opera.” In the local translation, it is called Le Fantôme de l’Opéra that French journalist Gastón Leroux wrote. The book was not popular from the time it was published. Perhaps Webber at one point in his life, it caught his attention.
Leroux was an investigative journalist, particularly who wrote stories based on what he believed occurred in real life. Continuous studies revealed that most of the accounts in his book, except for a few information, are indeed true. The Paris Opera House in Webber’s musical was said to be based from a real Opera Garnier in Paris, France, which was an old building. In architecture and interior design history, this opera house indeed had underground tunnels and even an underground lake. Many of these locations are seen in the musical and also in Leroux’s novel.
But what makes it really a point of interest is that, the Opera Garnier was considered haunted by a phantom, which is a French term for ghost, from the time the journalist wrote the story. Now, to review you up, this Opera Garnier is already a real life structure that has evidences of existence on maps. Performers at the Opera Garnier would place a horseshoe just above the entrance proceeding to the right stage wing to protect them from the destructive ghost.
In the play, you can see that the crew features a chandelier falling from the ceiling and soon injured Christine, the soprano singer. At the Opera Garnier, there was also a chandelier that once fell on the stage and “killed a woman.” The romance is fiction, but there are bloggers who say that Leroux also based both characters on real life people. Who is this Phantom and what was the motive of haunting?
What was the motive for a haunting?
In the book, the Phantom was based from Erik, a man who was said to be born in a village in Normandy, nearby Rouen. Erik had a “horribly disfigured face,” the bloggers wrote, so he was abandoned by his parents when he was eight years old. He then became part of a circus and until he was seven years old, he performed as one of the attractions. The blogger, who goes by the name Virginia, says that there are written works confirming that Erik traveled to France, Persia, and Russia to learn about arts and sciences, adding that his mother was horrified of his genetic deformity while his father never saw him. There were also characters like The Persian or the Daroga, said to have saved Erik’s life while he was in Persia and joined him toward France.
Those who have been inside the Opera Garnier, the inspiration behind Weber’s Paris Opera House, believed that it was the ghost of Erik haunting them. Blogger Virginia continues that many of the audiences who went near Box 5 of the real-life opera house “heard ghostly voices and whispers” even if there is no one in there. Virginia goes on saying that there are witness accounts claiming that the ghost was seen running around the opera house, wearing a black cape and mask over his face, quite similar to “The Phantom Of The Opera.” Plus, there are also accounts of this alleged deformity, even more, horrible than the portrayal in the Broadway musical. In these explanations, the Phantom isn’t described as dashing or prince-like but was monstrous.
In 1993, Renata de Waele, who the blogger says worked as public relations at the Opera Garnier for several years, wrote a narrative that compared fiction from non-fiction. There are writings, blogs, and even discussions about this reference to the award-winning musical, but none is solid enough to prove whether these are 100 percent true.
The Phantom could be real? We’re at the midway of concluding, and it’s like Einstein’s relativity theory, there’s no formal conclusion. However, these nuggets of information may also be to promote the musical for more viewers. Presently, there are re-runs being done across different countries and the popularity rises. It may also be to have a strong basis for such an amazing Broadway musical story.