"The Phantom of the Opera": The Novel Versus the Musical
There has been many adaptations and spin offs of The Phantom of the Opera. One is always just as good as the next, with their virtues as well as inadequacies. This article will compare the differences between the popular musical, Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gaston Leroux’s novel. Intriguing moments and plot elements of a novel are commonly removed from a film or in this case musical adaptation, and at times significant changes leave tantalizing bits of the story to the reader’s imagination. If anyone reading this article has not read the book or is planning to watch the musical, the climax of the plot will be revealed.
- The Phantom of The Opera is a gothic novel published by Gaston Leroux in 1911. It is tale of a deformed musical genius living in the cellars of the opera house in Paris. He conceals his face with a mask, and is believed to be an opera ghost by the inhabitants of the Opera Garnier.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical includes a beautiful melody that is woven into the plot of this classic novel. This article will discuss some of the most significant differences between the musical and the mysterious story.
Angel of Music
In the musical, Christine tells of her father’s promise: that he would send her an angel of music. She also remembers as a child hearing a phantom voice singing behind her wall. The mysterious angel tutored her as well.
In the novel, the Phantom did not grow with Christine as a child. The Phantom (Erik) noticed Christine in the chorus as a young woman. He approached her, hidden behind the dressing room mirror, with the intention of tutoring her voice. When she asked him if he was the angel of music that her father promised to send her, he agreed that he was, and began tutoring her concealing his appearance.
The Persian plays an intricate part of the plot in Gaston Leroux’s novel. He is part of Erik’s past, and retells the story of Erik’s escape and years spent in Persia. The Persian kept in contact with the mysterious phantom and was aware of his residence of the Opera house. The Daroga knew of the existence of Erik’s lair and of his booby traps across the underground lake. The Persian and Raoul travel to Erik’s lair together to rescue Christine. He was a key player in helping Raoul locate the Phantom’s lair and surviving the booby traps of the subterranean lake, and the room of mirrors. Madam Giry was the box keeper and not as privy to the Phantom’s secrets as the Persian also known as the Daroga was. Madame Giry took care of the preferred box of the Opera Ghost, box 5, and the Phantom at times left gold coins for her.
In the musical the Persian is not mentioned at all, this crucial character from the novel is omitted. Madam Giry takes up the roll of knowing Erik’s secrets. In the musical Raoul attempts to find Christine, with Madame Giry to guide him where to go.
The Phantom's Name
In the musical the Phantom’s name is never mentioned. In the novel, Christine asks the mysterious masked stranger, who he is, as she shares a meal with him. He tells her his name is Erik and explains it was a name he picked by chance.
Erik drops the chandelier following a promised threat in a letter to the managers, for not complying with his wishes, “A disaster beyond your imagination will occur.” The timing of the disaster of the chandelier takes place at a different time in the musical than in the novel. In the novel Erik caused the chandelier to fall the same night he gifted an anonymous box of chocolates to Carlotta, which most likely caused her inability to sing, and croak on the stage. The Phantom’s voice echoed in the auditorium, “she sings to bring down the chandelier,” as the chandelier fell on the unsuspecting crowd.
In the musical, Erik brought down the chandelier in a fit of rage after learning of Christine’s engagement. The purpose of the catastrophe completely different.
Philippe De Chagny is not mentioned in the musical. He was Raoul’s brother and a gentleman of the De Chagny family. He is mentioned throughout the novel, including when he chastises Raoul for weeping in the opera box during Christine’s performance. Philippe attempted to cross the subterranean lake under the opera, to search for Raoul during Christine’s disappearance. Unfortunately, he was killed, caught in one of Erik’s booby traps.
The Phantom's Magic
Erik’s talents are described in detail in the book. Erik had the talent of ventriloquism that spurred the belief the opera house was haunted. Those who chose to be seated in his box 5, heard a phantom voice address them with, “It’s taken.” He’s genius is made clear with his musical skill, clever pranks, architectural talents, and dark talent for setting traps. The Phantom traversed the opera house without detection, most likely because Erik knew the trapdoors located within the opera walls. His correspondence with the mangers is described throughout the book, and letters are delivered insisting his demands are met. The phantom’s magic is hinted at in the musical, but much is left out, probably because of timing purposes.
In the book Erik is unmasked by Christine the first time he brings her to his lair. In his lair, he and Christine sang together as he played. Overcome with curiosity to know the identity of her tutor Christine unmasked him. Only to discover his secret, and experience his fury.
This does happen in the musical but the second unmasking, during the Point of No Return did not happen in the novel.
- The mask is not described in the book, it does explain that it covers the Phantom’s entire face. In the musical it is stark white and conceals only half his face.
The ring bears a significance in the novel that is not expressed in the musical. Erik gives Christine the ring as a symbol of their oath, the first time she leaves his home. Christine loses the ring on the rooftop, as she proclaims her love to Raoul. In the end Erik returns the ring to her, with a promise to return the ring after he is dead. In a tender moment of the musical, Christine returns his ring as a goodbye.
The ultimatum of the Scorpion is never mentioned in the musical. It is one of the most frightening plot points of the novel. The sinister ornament of the scorpion and of the grasshopper, is placed before Christine to make a choice. If she turns the scorpion, she must marry Erik, if she turns the grasshopper, “It will jump Jolly High.” The Persian and Raoul discovered that the grasshopper was connected to a load of dynamite in the cellar. This destructive detail is also omitted from the musical. The dynamite was designed to blow up the opera house, “sky-high.” Erik presented Christine with the ultimatum of turning the Scorpion or the grasshopper as a refusal. Fortunately, it did not come to that, and Christine turned neither. The musical simplified Erik’s ultimatum, by demanding Christine choose between becoming his bride, or Raoul’s life.
The most touching moment of the novel is Christine’s kiss on Erik’s forehead. They weep together, in which Erik releases Christine and returns his gift, of his ring to her. Christine and Raoul leave together, and it is implied that they were married. In which after Erik relates to his friend the Persian, that he had never been kissed by a woman not even his own mother.
In the final of the musical, Christine and Raoul are trapped in the Phantom’s lair as the ultimatum is presented. Christine kisses the Phantom on the lips (right after he threatens Raoul’s life…timing purposes). He then releases her to flee with Raoul.
Much is mentioned of Erik’s past in the last few chapters of the novel. His years in Persia, his mastery talent as an architect and his past history in the opera house. Both the musical and novel share the spirit of the story, and touches the heart of the reader or viewer. Either choice of the musical, or Gaston Leroux’s original work, carries the soul of the romantic tragedy.
The essential plot of the tale is preserved in the novel and musical. If one wishes to know the story in its entirety, the novel is a rich classic to read. The musical carries the heart of the characters in a melody. Enjoy!
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