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The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the Opera (1910)

by Gaston Leroux

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,927154534 (3.77)268
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    ncgraham: Another great Victorian horror novel.
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    Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran by Marion Grace Woolley (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Those Rosy Hours takes a few brief mentions of a minor character in The Phantom of the Opera and turns it into a whole, enthralling story of desire and death.
  5. 32
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    Anonymous user: Both have "monsters" holding the object of their affection captive
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» See also 268 mentions

English (143)  Spanish (4)  German (3)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (154)
Showing 1-5 of 143 (next | show all)
This was more entertaining than I expected. Leroux leads us back stage at the opera through twisty-turny trap doors and hidden passages, and an equally twisty tale of mystery and romance. What starts out as a spooky ghost story turns into an adventure with a murderous, tortured genius and a love triangle. Some scenes could be from a James Bond movie: the villain who wants to destroy the world, the protagonists trapped while their prison slowly fills with water. And I now know where the chandelier trope originates! The romance was overly melodramatic, but the mystery was well done. ( )
  Gezemice | Mar 8, 2019 |
An iconic love/ghost story... a deformed man haunts the Paris Opera House and mentors/ensnares a gifted, beautiful soprano. Tough sledding for non-readers but still worth reading. The Broadway musical will heighten its appeal. ( )
  mjspear | Feb 20, 2019 |
While this book was incredibly interesting (mostly due to my fascination with the musical), it was not nearly as good as the movie. None of the characters were really worth caring about. The Persian was the best character, and he wasn't even in most of the story. Christine was childish and gullible, Raoul was an entitled jerk who threw a fit and stalked Christine when she refused to be close to him TO PROTECT HIM. Erik himself was completely mad, which, while I was expecting that, was just strange. Instead of appearing to be a mad genius (which he most definitely was) he just seemed like someone who was completely unredeemable and heartless. He was cooler as the ghost than as a person. ( )
  kat_the_bookcat | Feb 7, 2019 |
Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the Opera

Penguin Popular Classics, Paperback [1995].

12mo. 270 pp. Translated by (probably) Alexander Teixeira de Mattos. Prologue by the author [pp. 1-6]. Publisher’s Note [pp. 265-70].

First published in French as Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, March 1910.
Penguin Popular Classics, 1995.


I. Is It the Ghost?
II. The New Margarita
III. The Mysterious Reason
IV. Box Five
V. The Enchanted Violin
VI. A Visit to Box Five
VII. Faust and What Followed
VIII. The Mysterious Brougham
IX. At the Masked Ball
X. Forget the Name of the Man's Voice
XI. Above the Trap-Doors
XII. Apollo’s Lyre
XIII. A Master-Stroke of the Trap-Door Lover
XIV. The Singular Attitude of a Safety-Pin
XV. Christine! Christine!
XVI. Mme. Giry’s Revelations
XVII. The Safety-Pin Again
XVIII. The Commissary, the Viscount of the Persian
XIX. The Viscount and the Persian
XX. In the Cellars of the Opera
XXI. Interesting Vicissitudes
XXII. In the Torture Chamber
XXIII. The Torture Begin
XXIV. Barrels! Barrels!
XXV. The Scorpion or the Grasshopper: Which?
XXVI. The End of the Ghost's Love Story

Publisher’s Note on the Paris Opera House, from the Original American Edition of The Phantom of the Opera (1911)


To cut the long story short, what Gaston Leroux started in 1910, Andrew Lloyd Webber finished in 1986. The novel has some period charm, but it’s a pale shadow of the musical. The libretto is a much tighter story and the music adds a whole new dimension which Leroux’s pedestrian prose simply cannot supply.

Here Be Phantoms (i.e. spoilers)!

The story is good but unduly complicated and poorly told. Leroux is a lame writer, at best. Tedious detail is his idea of atmosphere. Slipshod verbosity is his idea of storytelling. Melodramatic excess is his idea of characterisation. Of suspense and horror he has no idea whatsoever. Of humour he does have an idea, but it’s too childish to merit attention. Leroux’s pretentions of relating true events, starting from the Prologue, are not too credible and I don’t know why he insists on keeping the charade until the end. He often describes incidents in such detail that he could have known only from the main characters, and they don’t figure among his “Acknowledgements”.

If the style is not bad enough, errors of pace and construction abound. For most of the first half I was wondering why the novel wasn’t titled “Raoul and Christine, or Rather a Tepid Romance between a Delusional Girl and a Silly Boy”. When the Phantom finally makes a definite appearance, in Christine’s narrative of things past (Chapter XII), he is transformed from a not very menacing background presence so far to a rather ridiculous physical one. He then disappears until the end when he becomes progressively more ridiculous. If this is merely annoying, the amount of irrelevant stuff is positively maddening. The second half could have been titled “Madame Giry and the Managers, or The Twenty Thousand Phantom Francs in the Opera”.

I can’t say the book was a chore. The prose is readable, if nothing else. Leroux’s obvious ineptitude to make the best of the story and the characters has a certain value as entertainment. But it was a relief to see the last page.

The musical improves hugely on the mediocre and messy original. First of all, it prunes the verbiage with a vengeance. Only the essentials are retained; doomed love affairs, graveyards by moonlight, underground mansions with lakes, boats and candles; can you get any more Gothic than that? The parts of Giry and the managers are ruthlessly cut (good riddance!), Raoul’s much older brother, Mamma Valerius and the Persian are completely missing but not missed at all (even better riddance!), and so is plenty of other superfluous stuff. There are many additions and re-arrangements, virtually all of them improvements. For example, Buquet’s death does occur in the book, but much earlier and backstage. It is moved onstage in the musical and coupled with the fall of the most famous chandelier in fiction (also earlier and much less effective in the book).

The whole scene with the staging of Don Juan Triumphant, the Phantom’s masterpiece, is not to be found in the novel. It is one of the most dramatic moments in the musical as Christine removes the Phantom’s mask on the stage in full view of the audience (the movie improves further the scene with the addition of the falling chandelier). The endings are rather different, too. Again, the musical improves vastly on the preposterous and puerile, not to mention hilarious, debacle in the book. Without resorting to Leroux’s atrocious melodrama (kisses on the forehead, indeed!), the libretto manages with just a few words – and the indispensable help of the music, of course – to show Christine awakening the Phantom’s compassion:

This haunted face holds no horror for me now...
It’s in your soul that the true distortion lies...


Pitiful creature of darkness...
What kind of life have you known...?

God give me courage to show you
You are not alone...

(Now calmly facing him, she kisses him long and full on the lips. The embrace lasts a long time. Raoul watches in horror and wonder.)

Music is a wonderful thing in the hands of a genius. Andrew Lloyd Webber is certainly one when it comes to musical theatre. Be it the Bible (Jesus and Joseph) or classic Hollywood (Sunset Blvd.), he can always be relied to invest even the most hackneyed characters with a new life. No wonder he transformed Leroux’s boring shadows. The musical Phantom is a sinister maniac, but also a complex creature with definite tragic overtones. Leroux’s Phantom is a fellow named Erik, a practical joker of sorts, neither sinister nor complex, and pathetic rather than tragic. You can hardly imagine this guy singing “The Music of the Night”, can you? Christine and Raoul from “All I Ask of You” are simple and sentimental creatures. But I do prefer them to the hysterical children from the novel.

Penguin typically forgot to credit the translator. I am told by a great Phantom Authority that this is probably the first English translation, made by one Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, first published soon after the original, and rather abridged – “nearly 100 pages of content from Leroux’s novel” were reportedly lost in the translation. Well, this is all for the better considering Leroux’s clumsy verbosity. I don’t think a fuller translation would improve the novel at all. Rather to the contrary, it might well be impossible to finish then! A more serious fault may be that Mattos is also said to have “introduced numerous mistranslations that further obfuscated Leroux’s text”. But I’m not going to read another translation anyway. Life’s too short for that.

A light and unintentionally amusing read on the whole, but hardly entertaining and very forgettable. An excellent story with lots of potential, but poorly told in affected and repetitious prose. An interesting historical curiosity, but nothing more than that. I wonder if it would have survived at all without the spin-offs on stage and screen, most notably Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical masterpiece. Skip this book. Go for the Original Cast recording and Joel Schumacher’s movie. If you happen to be tone-deaf or for some other reason averse to musical theatre, by all means go for the book. I much prefer Gothic architecture myself. ( )
4 vote Waldstein | Oct 1, 2018 |
[ Phantom of the Opera] by [Gaston Leroux] was a Gothic tale centering around the ghost of the Paris Opera House, Eric (as they call him). I have seen the musical twice and much prefer it over the book not because of the scenery, the costumes, or the music, but because of the tale, or the lack of it The book is very very detailed and we have a nice little wrapped up package in the end, where everybody ends up "happy", even Eric; who finds another opera house. I much prefer the "unknown" of the musical. The book also seemed to drag for about 4-5 chapters when telling about the dungeon. I read this and listened to it on audio while driving. The audio was very well done. A good read; not a great read. ( )
1 vote tess_schoolmarm | Jul 26, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 143 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (100 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leroux, GastonAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adams, AlexanderNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bair, LowellTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cosham, RalphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flynn, John L.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibson, FloNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haining, PeterForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hildebrandt, GregoryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matlock, JannIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muramatsu, Sadafumisecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perkins, RachelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ribière, MireilleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roche, IsabelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Teague, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Teixeira de Mattos, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wakana, Hitoshisecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitener, BarrettNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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First words
The opera ghost really existed.
None will ever be a true Parisian who has not learned to wear a mask of gaiety over his sorrows and one of sadness, boredom or indifference over his inward joy.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work refers to full text unabridged versions of The Phantom of the Opera (including translations).

Abridged or early reader versions which do not contain the full text should not be combined here.
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Haiku summary
A deformed genius,
The opera's unseen master,
The book is better.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060809248, Mass Market Paperback)

The novel that inspired the Lon Chaney film and the hit musical. "The wildest and most fantastic of tales."--New York Times Book Review.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:35 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

A classic, haunting tale of reality and illusion. Leroux, using scraps of history, theatrical lore, and his own imagination, created the tale of a disfigured composer tho lives in the labyrinthine depths of the Paris Opera House and the talented singer he trains and becomes obsessed with.… (more)

» see all 46 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141035935, 0141191503

Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102766, 1400108993

Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909676659, 1909676667

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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