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The Opera Ghost
by Asa Butcher
Issue 13
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The Phantom of the Opera (Le Fantôme de l'Opéra)
Gaston Leroux
Forget Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lon Chaney or the dozens of other interpretations, let's go straight back to the original literary material published nearly a century ago. The Phantom of the Opera is synonymous with unrequited love, masked monsters and the mysterious cellars below the Opera Garnier in Paris.

Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux was a French journalist, detective and novelist who created the evil genius called Erik, also known as the Opera Ghost, or O.G. to his tormented acquaintances. Leroux's famous story is written as a personal investigation into the strange events that had occurred at the opera house culminating in the disappearance of a beautiful soprano protégé named Christine Daaé.

Writing the story through a mixture of first-person narratives and research from interviews leaves you with the feeling that it is a true story, but you must keep reminding yourself that it is a fictional story. There are 'Phantom Phans' that believe there is some element of truth, but these facts are often dismissed as either urban legend or just more fiction.

True or not, The Phantom of the Opera is a beautiful book that cleverly plays with your emotions. Throughout the majority of the book, the reader hates the Opera Ghost, he is portrayed as a cold-blooded ruthless killer and blackmailer, but, by the conclusion, you feel a sympathy that you never knew could exist for an individual such as O.G.

Two chapters stood out in my mind as being some of the best writing I have had the chance to experience. Describing one would spoil the story for you, while the other has Christine Daaé describing her relationship with Erik to her childhood boyfriend Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny. The gentle way she describes the confusion, terror, anger and pity that she felt in Erik's presence is memorizing and her narrative of the forgotten genius teaching her how to sing under the pretence he is the 'Angel of Music' is quite emotional.

Horror or romance, this is the question when it comes to describing the genre, but there are also moments of tragedy and surprising comedy. The frustration of the two new opera managers is painfully funny in a macabre sense, also a woman killed by a falling chandelier raised an unexpected smile: "TWO HUNDRED KILOS ON THE HEAD OF A CONCIERGE. That was her sole epitaph!"

One of my favourite characters was known as the Persian, who saved Erik's life many years before and knows many of his secrets. He guides Raoul through the cellars and basements to find Christine and Erik's underground lair, and maintains an air of mystery throughout the story. The Persian features in one of the most exciting parts of the book - the hunt for Erik - and is on hand to describe Erik's sophisticated traps and torture devices, such as the Punjab Lasso and the Torture Chamber.

The Phantom of the Opera is a beautiful book that deserves your attention; it is a requiem to unrequited love and its tragedy. It was not difficult to understand why it has been adapted so many times, but there is always something special about reading the source material and reading first-hand about Erik: "He had a heart that could have held the empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar. Ah, yes, we must needs pity the Opera ghost."
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