The Phantom of the Opera Mass Market Paperback – Abridged, Sep 8 1998
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From the Inside Flap
The lights dim at the Paris Opera House. The exquisite Christine Daae enraptures the audience with her mellifluous voice. Immediately, Raoul de Chagny falls deeply in love. But the legend of the disfigured "opera ghost" haunts the performance, and as Raoul begins his pursuit of Christine, he is pulled into the depths of the opera house, and into the depths of human emotions. Soon Raoul discovers that the ghost is real and that he wields a terrifying power over Christine--a power as unimaginable as the ghost's masked face. As Raoul and the ghost vie for Christine's love, a journey begins into the dark recesses of the human heart, where desire, vulnerability, fear, and violence unravel in a tragic confrontation.
"From the Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Is It the Ghost? It was the evening on which MM. Debienne and Poligny, the managers of the Opera, were giving a last gala performance to mark their retirement. Suddenly the dressing-room of La Sorelli, one of the principal dancers, was invaded by half-a-dozen young ladies of the ballet, who had come up from the stage after “dancing” Polyeucte. They rushed in amid great confusion, some giving vent to forced and unnatural laughter, others to cries of terror. Sorelli, who wished to be alone for a moment to “run through” the speech which she was to make to the resigning managers, looked around angrily at the mad and tumultuous crowd. It was little Jammes—the girl with the tip-tilted nose, the forget-me-not eyes, the rose-red cheeks and the lily-white neck and shoulders—who gave the explanation in a trembling voice:
“It’s the ghost!” And she locked the door.
Sorelli’s dressing-room was fitted up with official, commonplace elegance. A pier-glass, a sofa, a dressing-table and a cupboard or two provided the necessary furniture. On the walls hung a few engravings, relics of the mother, who had known the glories of the old Opera in the Rue le Peletier; portraits of Vestris, Gardel, Dupont, Bigottini. But the room seemed a palace to the brats of the corps de ballet, who were lodged in common dressing-rooms where they spent their time singing, quarreling, smacking the dressers and hair-dressers and buying one another glasses of cassis, beer, or even rhum, until the callboy’s bell rang.
Sorelli was very suspicious. She shuddered when she heard little Jammes speak of the ghost, called her a “silly little fool” and then, as she was the first to believe in ghosts in general, and the Opera ghost in particular, at once asked for details:
“Have you seen him?”
“As plainly as I see you now!” said little Jammes, whose legs were giving way beneath her, and she dropped with a moan into a chair.
Thereupon little Giry—the girl with eyes black as sloes, hair black as ink, a swarthy complexion and a poor little skin stretched over poor little bones—little Giry added:
“If that’s the ghost, he’s very ugly!”
“Oh, yes!” cried the chorus of ballet-girls.
And they all began to talk together. The ghost had appeared to them in the shape of a gentleman in dress-clothes, who had suddenly stood before them in the passage, without their knowing where he came from. He seemed to have come straight through the wall.
“Pooh!” said one of them, who had more or less kept her head. “You see the ghost everywhere!”
And it was true. For several months, there had been nothing discussed at the Opera but this ghost in dress-clothes who stalked about the building, from top to bottom, like a shadow, who spoke to nobody, to whom nobody dared speak and who vanished as soon as he was seen, no one knowing how or where. As became a real ghost, he made no noise in walking. People began by laughing and making fun of this specter dressed like a man of fashion or an undertaker; but the ghost legend soon swelled to enormous proportions among the corps de ballet. All the girls pretended to have met this supernatural being more or less often. And those who laughed the loudest were not the most at ease. When he did not show himself, he betrayed his presence or his passing by accident, comic or serious, for which the general superstition held him responsible. Had any one met with a fall, or suffered a practical joke at the hands of one of the other girls, or lost a powderpuff, it was at once the fault of the ghost, of the Opera ghost.
After all, who had seen him? You meet so many men in dress-clothes at the Opera who are not ghosts. But this dress-suit had a peculiarity of its own. It covered a skeleton. At least, so the ballet-girls said. And, of course, it had a death’s head.
Was all this serious? The truth is that the idea of the skeleton came from the description of the ghost given by Joseph Buquet, the chief scene-shifter, who had really seen the ghost. He had run up against the ghost on the little staircase, by the footlights, which leads to “the cellars.” He had seen him for a second—for the ghost had fled—and to any one who cared to listen to him he said:
“He is extraordinarily thin and his dress-coat hangs on a skeleton frame. His eyes are so deep that you can hardly see the fixed pupils. You just see two big black holes, as in a dead man’s skull. His skin, which is stretched across his bones like a drumhead, is not white, but a nasty yellow. His nose is so little worth talking about that you can’t see it side-face; and the absence of that nose is a horrible thing to look at. All the hair he has is three or four long dark locks on his forehead and behind his ears.”
This chief scene-shifter was a serious, sober, steady man, very slow at imagining things. His words were received with interest and amazement; and soon there were other people to say that they too had met a man in dress-clothes with a death’s head on his shoulders. Sensible men who had wind of the story began by saying that Joseph Buquet had been the victim of a joke played by one of his assistants. And then, one after the other, there came a series of incidents so curious and so inexplicable that the very shrewdest people began to feel uneasy.
For instance, a fireman is a brave fellow! He fears nothing, least of all fire! Well, the fireman in question, who had gone to make a round of inspection in the cellars and who, it seems, had ventured a little farther than usual, suddenly reappeared on the stage, pale, scared, trembling, with his eyes starting out of his head, and practically fainted in the arms of the proud mother of little Jammes.* And why? Because he had seen coming toward him, at the level of his head, but without a body attached to it, a head of fire! And, as I said, a fireman is not afraid of fire.
The fireman’s name was Pampin.
The corps de ballet was flung into consternation. At first sight, this fiery head in no way corresponded with Joseph Buquet’s description of the ghost. But the young ladies soon persuaded themselves that the ghost had several heads, which he changed about as he pleased. And, of course, they at once imagined that they were in the greatest danger. Once a fireman did not hesitate to faint, leaders and front-row and back-row girls alike had plenty of excuses for the fright that made them quicken their pace when passing some dark corner or ill-lighted corridor. Sorelli herself, on the day after the adventure of the fireman, placed a horse-shoe on the table in front of the stage-door-keeper’s box, which every one who entered the Opera otherwise than as a spectator must touch before setting foot on the first tread of the staircase. This horse-shoe was not invented by me—any more than any other part of this story, alas!—and may still be seen on the table in the passage outside the stage-door-keeper’s box, when you enter the Opera through the court known as the Cour de l’Administration.
To return to the evening in question.
“It’s the ghost!” little Jammes had cried.
An agonizing silence now reigned in the dressing-room. Nothing was heard but the hard breathing of the girls. At last, Jammes, flinging herself upon the farthest corner of the wall, with every mark of real terror on her face, whispered:
*I have the anecdote, which is quite authentic, from M. Pedro Gailhard himself, the late manager of the Opera.
Everybody seemed to hear a rustling outside the door. There was no sound of footsteps. It was like light silk sliding over the panel. Then it stopped.
Sorelli tried to show more pluck than the others. She went up to the door and, in a quavering voice, asked:
But nobody answered. Then feeling all eyes upon her, watching her last movement, she made an effort to show courage, and said very loudly:
“Is there any one behind the door?”
“Oh, yes, yes! Of course there is!” cried that little dried plum of a Meg Giry, heroically holding Sorelli back by her gauze skirt. “Whatever you do, don’t open the door! Oh, Lord, don’t open the door!”
But Sorelli, armed with a dagger that never left her, turned the key and drew back the door, while the ballet-girls retreated to the inner dressing-room and Meg Giry sighed:
Sorelli looked into the passage bravely. It was empty; a gas-flame, in its glass prison, cast a red and suspicious light into the surrounding darkness, without succeeding in dispelling it. And the dancer slammed the door again, with a deep sigh.
“No,” she said, “there is no one there.”
“Still, we saw him!” Jammes declared, returning with timid little steps to her place beside Sorelli. “He must be somewhere prowling about. I shan’t go back to dress. We had better all go down to the foyer together, at once, for the ‘speech,’ and we will come up again together.”
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
And he gave up everything in the end.
It was sad but touchy!
Don't be fooled by the title of the novel, because it is not only about a scary little phantom that runs around the Paris Opera House, scaring staff, performers, and patrons alike, but a story of love, fate, and the scrutiny of life. The first chapters of the novel are a bit slow for a faced paced reader, but gradually pick up as the novel progresses. As everyone knows the story is set in late 19th century Paris and it's magnificent opera house as the stage, where numerous key scenes take place. Apparently, many performers and staff experience a series of bizarre incidents which become attributed to the "Opera Ghost" a dark, mysterious figure who threatens with violent means if his demands are not met.
The story has three central characters-Christine Daae, the beautiful young opera singer, the Viscount de Chagny (Raoul), who has been in love with Christine since their childhood, and lastly, the Phantom (Erik), who is a horribly disfigured but musical genius, obsessed with winning the affection of Christine which he desires so much. Eric disguises himself as "the Angel of Music," which allows him to gain her trust when his vocal lessons bring out the passion in her voice and the envy of her peers. When his love is turned down and his face is unmasked, the dark side of Eric-a.k.a the Phantom-is revealed to her. This love torn relationship would arise a conflict when Christine, Raoul, and Eric are confronted by their feelings and the understanding that only one man can have her love. In the end, there is a sense of sympathy that is understandable for the pain which the Phantom has endured.Read more ›
(Note that this review is for the Harper-Perennial Library edition or mass market paperback)
"He is extraordinarily thin and his dress-coat hangs on a skeleton frame. His eyes are so deep that he can that you can hardly see his fixed pupils. You just see two big black holes, as in a dead man's skull.
His skin, which is stretched across his bones like a drumhead, is not white, but a nasty yellow. His nose is so little worth talking about that you can't see it side-face, and the absence of that nose is a horrible thing to look at.
All the hair he has is three or four long dark locks on his forehead and between his ears."
The above comes from the beginning of the first chapter of this mesmerizing novel by French writer Gaston Leroux (1868 to 1927). The above is an actual description of the "opera ghost," more commonly known as the "phantom of the opera."
This story was first published as a serialisation in a French daily newspaper in France from September 1909 to January 1910.
The genre of this novel is gothic. (That is, it combines fiction, horror, and Romanticism.) Its subjects are a unique combination of romance and mystery.
This story is a haunting and enduring tale that has fascinated readers for more than a century. Set in the Paris Opera House of 1881, it is a powerful story that pits the powers of:
(1) Evil and good
(2) Reality and illusion
(3) Sensuality and death.
Finally, the most notable performances based on this novel are the realistic 1925 silent film starring Lon Chaney and the sanitized 1986 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.Read more ›
But Gaston Leroux's novel is still a spellbinding experience, full of atmospheric horror, a sense of gothic mystery, and lushly evocative language. But its crown jewel is Erik: a magnificently tortured anti-hero who inspires more horror, pity and sympathy than the rather flat hero and heroine.
The Paris opera house is said to be haunted by a ghost with a "death's head," who demands a small salary and a reserved box. Despite the sightings and fears of ballerinas and stagehands, the new managers are determined to stamp out this ridiculous story -- despite threatening letters and increasing accidents that happen around them.
Meanwhile, budding diva Christine Daae is taking Paris by storm, although nobody quite knows who taught her how to sing. And when her childhood friend Viscount Raoul de Chagny pays her a visit, he hears a passionate exchange between her and a man -- but there's no man there. She credits her new vocal abilities to the Angel of Music, but of course, that self-same Angel is the opera ghost.
As the Phantom becomes even more attached to Christine, Raoul soon finds that the ghost is actually a half-mad, horribly deformed musical genius named Erik -- and that after Christine saw his true face, he made her become engaged to him. The young lovers plan to run away together, but the "Angel of Music" isn't about to allow his beloved Christine to leave him...
Apparently there actually were some odd events -- including rumours of an opera ghost -- happening when Gaston Leroux began writing "The Phantom of the Opera.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Great read. If you like gothic/suspense novels, this is for you.Published 19 months ago by Mooncakes
One of the best horror classics you will ever read. To describe it in just one word .... SPOOKY !!!Published 21 months ago by moonfish
The mask, the music, the dark mysteries, and the tortured, deformed genius who just wants love. "The Phantom of the Opera" is so well known that its story needs no... Read morePublished on Sept. 7 2008 by EA Solinas
The mask, the music, the dark mysteries, and the tortured, deformed genius who just wants love. "The Phantom of the Opera" is so well known that its story needs no... Read morePublished on May 21 2008 by EA Solinas
The mask, the music, the dark mysteries, and the tortured, deformed genius who just wants love. "The Phantom of the Opera" is so well known that its story needs no... Read morePublished on March 25 2008 by EA Solinas