The Phantom of the Opera

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Cover of the 1910 edition of the novel

In 1986, Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera was adapted into what is now known as Andrew Lloyd Webber's best known musical—and its producers' claims that it is the single most financially successful entertainment venture of all time may have some truth to them.

Leroux tells what he insists is the true story of a young soprano, Christine, who believes she is being tutored by the "Angel of Music", sent to her from Heaven from her deceased father. Originally considered nothing special, especially compared to her rival and the opera's resident diva, Carlotta, after three months under the Angel's tutelage, Christine shines. The managers quickly realize the depth of her talent... and so does Christine's childhood best friend, Raoul, who sees her in her newfound glory and realizes that She's All Grown Up.

After a show, Raoul is eager to be reacquainted with Christine, but she is kidnapped by the Angel (really the titular Phantom) and taken to his lair. There, the Phantom puts her under his spell with his music and tells her that he wants her for his bride. However, when Christine takes off his mask to reveal his disfigurement, the Phantom throws her out in shame.

Shortly afterwards, Raoul and Christine become engaged. The Phantom overhears them, and decides to win Christine's love, once and for all... or, failing that, punish them both for their arrogance.

While the novel and many films saw the Phantom as pitiable, the image of him as an outright romantic figure is one established by the musical and its fanbase.


The Phantom of the Opera (novel), written in 1909-1910 by Gaston Leroux, has been adapred to other media multiple times:

The story is also spoofed in the Discworld novel Maskerade.

Tropes used in The Phantom of the Opera include:

Leroux's original novel and its fandom contain examples of

He took part calmly in a number of political assassinations;

"Wretched man!" I cried. "Have you forgotten the rosy hours of Mazenderan?"
"Yes," he replied, in a sadder tone, "I prefer to forget them. I used to make the little sultana laugh, though!"

  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Erik turns more and more vicious and threatening towards Christine as his jealousy of Raoul grows.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mifroid.
  • Dead Guy on Display: The final line of the novel is a plea for giving Erik's body this treatment. Oddly enough, It seems to be a Type 1, when the person was an honored figure (despite the fact that Erik was a Psychotic Man Child unrepentant killer), and his body would be preserved as a relic/object of reverence:

And, now, what do they mean to do with that skeleton? Surely they will not bury it in the common grave! ... I say that the place of the skeleton of the Opera ghost is in the archives of the National Academy of Music. It is no ordinary skeleton.

At first, he thought he must be mistaken. To begin with, he was persuaded that, if any one was to be pitied, it was he, Raoul. It would have been quite natural if she had said, "Poor Raoul," after what had happened between them. But, shaking her head, she repeated: "Poor Erik!" What had this Erik to do with Christine's sighs and why was she pitying Erik when Raoul was so unhappy?

    • Erik, After his Love Redeems scene, meets the Daroga, who asks him (repeatedly) about the murder of Count Philippe:

"Daroga, don't talk to me ... about Count Philippe ... ""I have not come here ... to talk about Count Philippe ... but to tell you that ... I am going ... to die..."

    • Mme. Giry:

"Mme. Giry. You know me well enough, sir; I'm the mother of little Giry, little Meg, what!"
This was said in so rough and solemn a tone that, for a moment, M. Richard was impressed. He looked at Mme. Giry, in her faded shawl, her worn shoes, her old taffeta dress and dingy bonnet. It was quite evident from the manager's attitude, that he either did not know or could not remember having met Mme. Giry, nor even little Giry, nor even "little Meg!" But Mme. Giry's pride was so great that the celebrated box-keeper imagined that everybody knew her

    • Moncharmin: Excerpt from the (exceptionally long) "Memories of a Manager":

"A grievous accident spoiled the little party which MM. Debienne and Poligny gave to celebrate their retirement. I was in the manager's office, when Mercier, the acting-manager, suddenly came darting in. He seemed half mad and told me that the body of a scene-shifter had been found hanging in the third cellar under the stage, between a farm-house and a scene from the Roi de Lahore. I shouted: " 'Come and cut him down!'

"Did you design that room? It's very handsome. You're a great artist, Erik."
"Yes, a great artist, in my own line."

And he had to hide his genius or use it to play tricks with, when, with an ordinary face, he would have been one of the most distinguished of mankind!

The Phantom: You alone can make my song take flight, and help me make the Music of the Night.

The famous musical and myriad other adaptations further contain examples of

  • AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: In Lloyd Webber's musical adaptation, there seems to be no consensus as to whether the female lead's name is pronounced "Christine" or "Christine".
  • Acting for Two: In the silent film, they must have really liked Joseph Buquet's hamming it up, so they have the actor also play his twin brother, who finds him dead.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Gerard Butler's Phantom in the film version is rather less ugly than his stage counterparts, to the point that film critic Richard Roeper quipped "He's the Fashionably-Scarred Stud of the Opera."
    • Peter Jöback who plays the part on West End between March and September 2012 originally auditioned to play the Phantom on Broadway but was rejected because he was considered too good looking for the part. He was offered the part of Raoul instead, turned it down and was then contacted by Andrew Lloyd Webber who asked him to come play the role in London.
  • Adaptation Dye Job: The book Christine was blonde, but in all stage productions and the movie, she is a brunette.
    • Averted in the Hungarian production—Christine is sometimes blonde here. The actresses seem to have wigs the same colour as their own hair.
  • Age Cut: Raoul, Mdme. Giry, and both The Phantom and Christine in the movie.
  • Anachronism Stew: Musically speaking - the electric guitar that duels with the organ during the tag of the titular song.
  • Angry Mob Song: "Track Down This Murderer", a reprise of the title song that's part of the lengthy climax.
  • Auction: The prologue of the musical is set at a 1911 auction of the opera house's odds and ends.
  • Big Damn Kiss: In the movie, Christine and The Phantom's kiss seems to go on for about five minutes. Good thing it's beautiful.
  • Brandishment Bluff: In the 1926 version, when Erik is cornered by the mob, he appears to hold something in the air and brandishes it to hold them back, even turning to make those behind him retreat, then he laughs and shows an empty hand, prompting the mob to move in for the kill.
  • Canon Discontinuity: It would be impossible to make a film adaptation of Love Never Dies without breaking continuity with the 2004 movie, since it had established that Christine dies in 1918, with the implication that it was because of the flu pandemic.
  • Cash Cow Franchise: The London and New York productions have been up and running since 1986 and 1988 respectively. Tours and foreign productions are similarly popular, and a lot of merchandise follows in their wake. In Vegas, there's a special condensed 95-minute version that retains all the songs (sort of; see Cut Song below).
  • Compelling Voice: "The Music of the Night" is an attempted seduction via this.
    • "The Point of No Return" is also a double seduction scene: Don Juan (sung by the Phantom) is seducing Aminta (sung by Christine).
  • Composite Character: The Persian is completely absent, but his task of leading Raoul to the Phantom's lair has been given to Madame Giry.
  • Costume Porn: Pretty much the whole show, but especially "Masquerade".
  • Covers Always Lie: The artwork for the Las Vegas production features the Phantom bending seductively over...a blonde woman in a red dress with copious cleavage who generally looks nothing like the stage incarnation of Christine.
  • Crosscast Role: Christine as the Page Boy, in an In-Universe example.
  • Cut Song: "Magical Lasso" in the Las Vegas Recut, though since its melody reappears elsewhere in many other songs it's not surprising that the advertising claims all the songs appear.
  • Dark Reprise: Several turn up in Act Two as part of longer pieces (particularly the appearances of the "Angel of Music" melody), but the Act One closing, the Phantom's reprise of "All I Ask Of You," is the best known.
    • The final words of the musical are the Phantom's despairing reprise of "Music of the Night."
  • Dawson Casting: While most actresses to play Christine in the stage show are in their early twenties, a handful have been in their thirties or even nearing forty.
    • To be fair, her age is never explicitly stated in the book or stage show, to my knowledge. The only place that gives her an age is the 2004 movie (in which they said they WANTED to age down the characters).
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "And if he has to kill a thousand men/ The Phantom of the Opera will kill and kill again!"
  • Did Not Do the Research bordering on You Fail History Forever: the film moves the setting from 1881 (in the play) to 1871, apparently so they could time the ending to have Christine appear to be a victim of the Spanish Influenza in 1918 and to have Raoul a very elderly man. As the Phantom appears to be alive at least long enough to leave a rose on her grave, and is supposed to be substantially older than Christine and Raoul, this is already stretching credulity. The problem is, in 1871 Paris was besieged by these people called the Prussians in the middle of a little thing called the Franco-Prussian war and the Opera House wasn't even finished yet. Adding insult to injury in 1918 France was in the grips of the Influenza AND crawling out of the end of this little thing called World War I. Apparently they live in an alternate France that doesn't spend much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries at war with Germany.
  • Dramatic Irony: In the 1943 version starring Claude Rains, when Erique Claudin tries to have his work published, one of the publishers tells him that he never received it. Little did either of them know, was that the company was showing Erique's work to renowned music critic Franz Liszt to get his testimonial for its publication. When Erique hears his music being played to Liszt in the other room, he assumes that the company stole his music and strangles the publisher to death. The publisher's wife then grabs a tray of etching acid and... well, you know the rest.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: "Your chains are still mine..."
  • Dramatic Unmask: The silent film in particular has one of the best examples of this trope. According to the IMDb, "The sight was said to have caused some patrons at the premiere to faint."
    • Robert Bloch wrote about having seen this movie as a child. He didn't follow the plot much, and didn't get why the Phantom was wearing a mask. Then came the dramatic unmasking scene, and he slept the next ten years with lights on.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: In the silent film, surrounded by pretty much every adult male in Paris, the Phantom holds up his fist with what appears to be a grenade. After they have all retreated, he opens his empty fist and lets out one last Evil Laugh before they mob him and beat him to death.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "The Point of No Return".
  • Electra Complex: Part of Christine's attraction to the Phantom is that he reminds her of her father. (Note how most of the lyrics in "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" could just as easily apply to the Phantom.) Word of God said that in the movie, M. Daae was deliberately cast to look like Gerard Butler.
  • Evil Laugh: In the stage version, the Phantom breaks out in mad laughter first when he ruins Carlotta's performance and later when he crashes the chandelier. In the silent film, Lon Chaney proves you don't even need sound to let loose with an Evil Laugh.
    • In Maskerade, the Phantom (one of them, at least) writes down an Evil Laugh. With five exclamation marks, nonetheless!!!!! This lampshaded by one of the characters. (Opera will do that to a man.)
  • Fatal Flaw: The Phantom's...craziness. Christine's naïveté.
  • Flanderization: The Phantom has always been something of a Tragic Monster and may sometimes even be a sympathetic figure, but the Schumacher film (to the point of Villain Decay) and the stage musical (to a lesser extent than it's often accused of, especially considering the large amount of free reign the actor's given within certain boundaries) tend to exaggerate this aspect while simultaneously making everyone else unlikeable and downplaying the fact that, whatever else Erik may be, he is also a deeply disturbed and homicidal person.
    • This has also happened to Carlotta over the years. Originally she was part of a Technician Versus Performer comparison, with Carlotta having a marvelous instrument but no soul in her singing as opposed to the more passionate (if rather more erratic) Christine. Over the years this has been simplified to Carlotta's voice being awful (or at least past its prime), to the point where the Schumacher movie depicts opera staff stuffing cotton in their ears when she prepares to sing (thus leading to Informed Flaw, as Margaret Preece's voice is one of the better ones in the film).
      • In fact a few swings in the stage show can cover both Carlotta and Christine. Also Carlotta is always played by someone who's been classically trained.
  • Foreshadowing: The Il Muto scene and its song "Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh". When the Phantom interrupts it, the Countess is with her lover, cheerfully singing about how she's cuckolding her husband, not knowing that he's hiding nearby. After Buquet's murder, Christine—about to take over the role of the Countess—and Raoul head to the roof to hide from the Phantom, share their first kiss together and declare their love...and the Phantom is privy to this all along. Is it any surprise that it's when Christine's taking her bow that night that the Phantom chooses to crash the chandelier?
    • Not to mention "Think of Me". The entire song. "...Though it was always clear, that this was never meant to be..."'
  • Gambit Pileup: At the beginning of the stage musical—the change of the opera house's ownership means that everyone who wants things to change is trying to get a word in first. The Phantom's own machinations go unnoticed for some time because the new owners assume it's Raoul or one of the lesser players trying to stir up trouble.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Everywhere you look.
  • Grief Song: Both Christine ("Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again") and The Phantom ("All I Ask of You" Reprise).
  • Hall of Mirrors: A straight version of the trope appears when Raoul follows the Phantom down a trapdoor after "Masquerade" and finds himself trapped in a mirror maze.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The musical ("The Point of No Return," anyone?).
    • Even more so in the movie version, largely due to the choice to hire younger, prettier actors than are usually cast in the stage show (Gerard Butler especially). Emmy Rossum being only sixteen to Butler's thirty-five makes Point of No Return kind of ...uncomfortable. Also, most of the stage actresses are only in their twenties, and are very sexy indeed
      • Well, the ages of Rossum and Butler at the time of filming do match the ages of Christine and the Phantom (Butler may even be a touch young for the part, but I can't recall the Phantom's exact age in the book). Also keep in mind that Michael Crawford was approached to do the part but said no since Brightman would not be playing Christine. Imagine how squicky it would have been if Rossum had played against Crawford!
      • If you think the musical version is Hotter and Sexier you should see the one Dario Argento made!
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again", Christine recognizes how hard she's been trying to hold on the past and tries to move on.
  • The Ingenue: Christine is the epitome of this, except in 1943, where she's a well-adjusted, career-minded girl. Carlotta even lampshades Christine's ingenue status right before "Prima Donna":

Carlotta: (to Andre and Firmin) Would you not rather have your precious little ingenue?

      • Signora, no, the world wants YOU!!!
  • In Name Only: Subverted with the 1989 slasher reimagining starring Robert Englund as the title character. Many often mistake it for this given its nature as a gory slasher—but in actuality, it is much closer to the original novel than the famous musical (which itself at times borders on the trope), maintaining the sadism of Leroux's Erik which many adaptations tend to downplay.
    • The Dario Argento version is very much an example of being The Phantom of the Opera in name only, starting with how The Phantom is not deformed and was raised by rats.
  • Insistent Terminology: In the movie version of the musical, Gilles André would like to point out that he is in the business of scrap metal, not junk.
  • Ironic Echo: The final lyrics of "Music Of The Night" are the Phantom's passionate declaration of love for Christine. But when they are sung again at the end of the show, he is now expressing despair at having lost her forever.
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: "Masquerade". (Though, they do manage to tie the song itself back into an emotional moment with the Phantom near the end of the show.)
    • Although even at the beginning of Act 2 it could be seen as a metaphor for the Phantom's situation.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Raoul, obviously.
  • Lampshade Hanging: From "Prima Donna":

You'd never get away with all this in a play!
But if it's loudly sung and in a foreign tongue,
it's just the sort of story audiences adore,
in fact, a perfect opera!

  • Lighter and Softer: If you're talking about the Lloyd Webber version as opposed to Leroux, there's always the TheaterWorks USA adaptation, which was expressly written to out-Light-and-Softness the Lloyd Webber version itself. (And in all honesty, the Lloyd Webber version comes off far, far darker onstage than it does in the film version.) The Theaterworks version does away with the love triangle altogether, makes Erik into Madame Giry's long-lost son who was burned in a fire in the opera house a few years previously, and has Christine coax him in the end into using his gift to open a music school in order to relieve his bitterness at being unable to perform. All of the denizens of the opera happily approve, and it ends with a song about accepting people who may look different from you. I wish I were making this up.
    • The Hammer Horror version is so light and soft that the Phantom doesn't even kill anybody! Instead, a homicidal little person who's friends with the Phantom does all the killing, so the Phantom's hands are technically clean throughout the whole movie.
  • Long Runners: Since 1986 in London and 1988 in New York City; it's the longest-running Broadway show in the latter. (Les Misérables has got it licked by a year in London, and would have it similarly licked on Broadway had the Broadway version, which opened in 1987, a year before Phantom did, not closed in 2003)
  • Lost in Imitation: The 1943 version changed the nature of the Phantom's ugliness from deformity to disfigurement, and several subsequent adaptations followed suit.
  • Love Triangle: Depending on the version and/or the actors, this can be Triang Relations 4 or 7. In the 1943 version, oddly enough, it's not Raoul and Erik competing over Christine, but Raoul and a baritone Christine often stars opposite onstage. (The Phantom figure is Christine's father in this case, who wants her back after leaving her in her childhood.) In the end, Christine chooses her career over both of them.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Masquerade" is a grand celebration...of concealing your identity "so the world will never find you!" A Dark Reprise appears at the end.
  • Manly Tears: Gerard Butler skillfully looks manly whilst simultaneously crying and wearing a frilly shirt.
  • Mr. Fanservice: The various actors who have played Erik and Raoul.
  • Mugging the Monster: In the '89 version not only are people stupid enough to try to mug the Phantom, they have to mug the one played by Robert frickin' Englund!
  • No Name Given: Andrew Lloyd Webber and most other adaptors never call the Phantom "Erik". The Lon Chaney silent does, however, as does the novel The Phantom of Manhattan, a sequel to the Lloyd Webber version.
  • Nostalgic Music Box: It has the image of a monkey sitting atop a barrel organ, and plays what is later revealed to be the "Masquerade" melody.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Everyone in the 2004 movie save for Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry, who is apparently the only person in France with a French accent.
  • Number of the Beast: One has to wonder what jackass decided to tempt fate by putting the cursed chandlier with the bloody past into the musical's auction as Lot 666.
  • Obsession Song: The reprise of "All I Ask of You" at the end of Act One.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Occurs in a couple of the movies, with the '89 version being the most blatant.
  • Ominous English Chanting: The Main Theme has an ominous choir that chants He's there... the Phantom of the Opera.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: And how!
  • Pretty in Mink: Carlotta wears a fur or two in about every other adaptation.
  • Product Placement: In the movie version, the "hero" version of the chandelier was sponsored by Swarovski Crystals. There's a scene with a Swarovski store window, which depicts the Swarovski swan logo. However, the logo at the time would have been a flower.
  • Race Lift: Robert Guillame was cast as the Phantom during the first national tour. To this date, he is the only African-American actor to play the role.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Movie version only.
  • Recut: The Las Vegas sit-down production at the Venetian Hotel and Casino (Phantom -- The Las Vegas Spectacular) was trimmed to 95 minutes by Andrew Lloyd Webber and original director Harold Prince. Most of the songs are shortened, but only "Magical Lasso" is dropped, and the special effects are even more elaborate—especially those related to the chandelier.
  • Satan: The Angel of Music is another name for The Devil. The Phantom is Milton-esque figure who lives underground in a freezing lake (a la Dante) coming up to enchant and abduct beautiful innocent maidens. He is an Expy for Lucifer.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: "His life is now the prize that you must earn. So, do you end your days with me, or do you send him to his grave?" Raoul throws this back in the Phantom's face with "Why make her lie to you to save me?"
  • Scenery Porn: The sets and special effects of the play (most infamously the chandelier) were groundbreaking for their time and still impress today. They may be flashy and overwrought, but they're done spectacularly well.
  • Setting Update: Over the years, plays and films have been written that reset the story in other venues. Probably the best-known of these is Brian De Palma's 1974 film Phantom of the Paradise, which is set in the rock music industry and pastiches several horror/fantasy stories in addition to Phantom.
  • Show Within a Show: See Stylistic Suck below.
  • Snow Means Love: The 2004 movie of the musical. As Raoul and Christine romance on the Opera House Roof, it convieniantly starts to snow.
  • The Song Before the Storm: "Prima Donna" and "Notes (reprise) - Twisted Every Way".
  • Splash of Color: The 1925 Lon Chaney silent version is in black and white, except for the masked ball scene, which is presented in early Technicolor.
  • Stylistic Suck: The three fictional operas performed in the course of the story (Hannibal, a parody of the grand late classical operas from the like of Meyerbeer and Gluck, Il Muto, an obvious parody of Mozart—or one of that crowd—and Don Juan Triumphant, Sir Andrew's spoof on serialism in modern opera, overwrought with dissonance, and bathing in clichés.
  • Tenor Boy: Raoul fits this trope, but note that the Phantom is also a tenor. Starting with the original London cast, in which Steve Barton (Raoul) was also Michael Crawford's (The Phantom's) understudy, it's common for Raoul's actor to understudy the Phantom's role, sometimes taking it over later.
  • This Is as Far as I Dare Go, Sir.
  • Title Drop: Happens every five seconds...
  • Torches and Pitchforks: The mob that chases after Erik at the end of the 1925 film—and in the 2004 version.
  • Torture Cellar: Book and movie only.
  • Tragic Monster: The Phantom is the epitome of the trope when he isn't being played up as a Draco in Leather Pants.
  • Victim Falls For Rapist: The lyrics and tone of "Music of the Night" are presented as a seduction and reveal the Phantom's love for Christine. But if he has his way with her when the lights go out (there has been endless discussion as to the possibility of this), given Christine's unconscious/entranced state throughout the scene, this can only be construed as rape.
    • The original script for what would later become the 2004 film had the Phantom getting into bed with Christine as Music of the Night ended and the scene fading out as he drew the curtain around them, leaving little doubt as to his intentions. Probably changed as it would have been hard to continue presenting him as a romantic hero after such a blatant violation.
      • Many fans did note that her stockings are gone when she awakens at "I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It." Could just be a Continuity Snarl or...something else.
      • Word of God says the missing stockings are an unfortunate continuity error.
  • Villain Love Song: It's a Long List...
    • "The Mirror"
    • "The Music of the Night" is one of the most famous songs in musical theater and one of the best examples of this trope.
    • "Wandering Child"
    • "Point of No Return"
    • "Down Once More"
  • Villain Song: The title number.
  • Voice Types: Christine, Carlotta.
  • White Mask of Doom: Natch.
    • Only in the musical, though. In the novel it's once mentioned to be black, and never mentioned again. The mask used during the masquerade ball was naturally red.
  • Whole Costume Reference: In the film, Emmy Rossum's costume in "Think Of Me" is practically an exact copy of that worn by Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sissi) in the famous portrait by Franz Winterhalter, right down to the hairstyle and the diamond stars in it. It doesn't hurt that Rossum is a dead ringer for the empress to begin with.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: In the movie, Christine, after her first abduction by the Phantom (and an odd placement, at that).