The Broadway Musical Phantom of the Opera

Before The Phantom of the Opera was a Broadway show, it was a movie. This is a poster from the 1925 film version of Phantom. It is in the public domain in the United States because it was published between 1923 and 1977 without a copyright notice.
Before The Phantom of the Opera was a Broadway show, it was a movie. This is a poster from the 1925 film version of Phantom. It is in the public domain in the United States because it was published between 1923 and 1977 without a copyright notice. | Source

The Paris Opera House (l'Opéra Garnier)

In 1669, Louis XIV of France founded the Royal Academy of Music. He granted a license to Pierre Perrin and the Marquis de Sordéac to present operas sung in French in public.

Since 1669, there have been 13 opera houses in Paris. Some buildings were borrowed, some were temporary, some were destroyed by fire, and some existed at the same time as other buildings used for that same purpose.

Charles Garnier designed an opera house that was completed and dedicated in 1875. This building, l’Opéra Garnier (also called the Paris Opera House), is still in use today. It is the only major building from the reign of Napoleon III (1852 to 1870)—France’s Second Empire—which still exists.

One unusual aspect of the building is the lake. A lake was created deep beneath the stage area in the fifth basement. Water from the lake was employed in the operation of hydraulic stage machinery.

The lake still exists today, but it is no longer used for the original purpose. Today, the lake serves as an on-site reservoir, to be used as a source of water in the event of fire.

l'Opéra Garnier (Paris Opera House)

This photograph of the Paris Opera House (l'Opéra Garnier), circa 1890 to 1900, is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.
This photograph of the Paris Opera House (l'Opéra Garnier), circa 1890 to 1900, is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. | Source

Gaston Leroux and Le Fantôme de l'Opéra

Gaston Leroux wrote a novel that takes place in l’Opéra Garnier (the Paris Opera House), Le Fantôme de l'Opéra—the Phantom of the Opera.

Leroux was born in Paris on May 6, 1868. His parents were traveling from Le Mans, France to their home in Normandy. They had to change trains in Paris and go from one station to another. Monsieur and Madame Leroux, who was nine months pregnant, were making the tedious journey on foot through streets congested with horse-drawn traffic. The couple thought they would reach Normandy before the baby was born, but Madame Leroux began having labor pains. She was rushed into a house, where she gave birth to her son, Gaston Louis Alfred.

Years later, Leroux returned to Paris to find the house in which he was born. An undertaker’s business was located on the ground floor.

Gaston Leroux was graduated from college with a law degree. Rather than practice law, he became a court reporter, investigative reporter, and roving journalist. He reported from the field at many historic events. At the same time that he was witnessing events in the field, Leroux was writing novels. In 1907, he decided to become a full-time novelist.

In 1911, Gaston Leroux published Le Fantôme de l'Opéra—the Phantom of the Opera—a horror story he was inspired to write after visiting the Paris Opera House and roaming through its lower depths. Leroux saw the lake and also the dungeons where prisoners were held several stories below ground when the opera house was used as a prison during the Franco-Prussian war.

He remembered an accident which occurred at the opera house in 1896 when one of the counterweights of a chandelier fell on the audience. Several people were severely injured, and one woman was killed. He tried to visualize the consequences of what would happen if a chandelier fell when the theater was filled with opera goers.

He remembered the rumors about a ghost, a phantom, living in the depths of l’Opéra Garnier—a being that many individuals believed actually existed…a real person.

Lon Chaney's The Phantom of the Opera Film

In the summer of 1922, Carl Laemmle, president of Universal Pictures, went on vacation to Europe. While in Paris, Laemmle met Gaston Leroux. He remarked how excited he had been to see the exterior of the magnificent opera house designed by Charles Garnier. Leroux gave Laemmle a copy of Le Fantôme de l'Opéra to read, and Laemmle stayed up all night reading the novel. By morning, he was convinced that the book should be made into a film. He wanted to shoot the film at Universal Studios, the film studio he had opened in the village of Lankershim in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, rather than in Paris.

In the 1920s, it was cheaper to build a replica of the Paris Opera House on a stage in a film studio in California than it was to send a cast and crew to Europe. In addition, Universal was already committed to shooting another Paris-based film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and a large outdoor Parisian set was in the process of being built.

The star of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lon Chaney, was chosen to play the role of the Phantom. The Phantom of the Opera had previews in Los Angeles, California in January 1925. The premiere was in San Francisco on April 26, 1925. The film was edited and re-edited, rewritten, made into a comedy, and eventually went back to being a horror film. When the film was finally released in New York City, it was a box office success.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera Musical

The Phantom of the Opera is a musical theater production based upon Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, a novel written by Gaston Leroux. The book for the production was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe. The music was composed by Lloyd Webber, and the lyrics were written by Charles Hart, with additional lyrics by Stilgoe.

Phantom, which opened in the West End (London, England) in October 1986 and on Broadway (New York City, New York) in January 1988, is still in production in both cities. The show, seen in 145 cities in 27 countries by more than 130 million people in its first 25 years, is the most successful entertainment project in history. I can be counted among those 130 million people. I have seen Phantom of the Opera twice—at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London and at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, California.

The Phantom of the Opera has been playing at the Majestic Theatre in New York City’s Theatre District since it opened in January 1988. On February 11, 2012, one month after its 24th anniversary, Phantom became the first musical in Broadway history to surpass 10,000 performances.

Original West End and Broadway Cast Members

Michael Crawford sang the role of the Phantom when The Phantom of the Opera opened in both London and New York. Sarah Brightman originated the role of Christine Daaé in both cities.

Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman: Phantom, Act I, Scene 5

1988 Tony Awards

Introduced by Angela Lansbury, Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman performed at the 1988 Tony Awards.

Have you attended a live performance of the musical "Phantom of the Opera"?

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Comments 52 comments

rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 4 years ago from Kentucky

Good Evening! You can tell who the night owls are!

I didn't know the story behind the play. Excellent story and extremely well told. I saw the Phantom in New York in 1998 (maybe '99, hard to remember) and the traveling show in Mobile, Alabama in '91. Both were brilliantly done. Actually, the movie wasn't that bad either.

Great Hub as always! We expect no less from one whose standard is so high! Up & Awesome & Interesting!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Rich (rcrumple),

It's nearly 2:00am in California, and I hope all the coffee and tea I've been drinking so I can finish my article won't keep me awake.

Thanks for reading my article and being the first to comment in it. I appreciate your very kind words. Thank you so much.

All I knew about Gaston Leroux was that he had written the novel. I didn't know anything about his life at all. I enjoyed doing the research about him.


midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

I watched it twice here in Singapore...and I must say I enjoyed it immensely. It's also a story of what fear and rejection can do to a person...that's the tragic part of it. Thanks for sharing the wonderful history as well.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Michelle (midget38),

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it.

I like to include the "story behind the story" when I write an article...the history of the building, the biography of the artist, the background information. It makes the Hub that much more interesting.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

Hi, Daisy. Wow! I am a big fan of the Phantom, and you have made this Hub outstanding with the background. I saw this unforgettable play in Miami several years ago. The music of the Phanton will always be beautiful for me.

I voted this Hub UP, etc.etc. and will certainly share with followers, Tweet.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mary,

Thanks for reading my article, commenting in it, sharing it with your followers, and tweeting it.

Judging from the comments I've received from my readers so far, "Broadway" is all over the world, not just in the Theatre District in New York City.


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Interesting article Daisy. I did not know the history behind the Phantom of the Opera - inspired by a real ghost story - I had no idea. Have to share this one.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Teresa,

Thanks for reading my article, commenting in it, and sharing it.

The Phantom was inspired by a real ghost story...and a chandelier dropping occurs during the performance. There's a chandelier attached by cables to the ceiling in the center of the auditorium. All of a sudden, after swaying to get the audience's attention, the chandelier drops several feet. It's very dramatic.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and awesome. Oh, I loved this. So fascinating and the videos all great. The Paris Opera House has always held a fascination for me as I'm into the paranormal. Thanks for sharing. Passing this on.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Rasma (Gypsy Rose Lee),

It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for reading my article, commenting in it, and sharing it.

The Paris Opera House has a fascinating history. Discussing its background adds to the story of the Phantom production in all its various forms.


Doc Sonic profile image

Doc Sonic 4 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Another very informative hub, Daisy. I saw Phantom at the Wang Theater in Boston. I'm also a fan of the old Universal movies, so I've seen the Lon Cheney movie, too.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Glen (Doc Sonic),

Thanks for reading my Hub and commenting in it. I appreciate your continued support of my writing. I've seen parts of the Lon Chaney film, but not the entire movie.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

What a 'great story behind the story'...you sure did your homework GF! Lots of really interesting background to such a popular Broadway play...believe it or not I didn't even know it was still showing in London...call me an Ugly American!

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mary tillsontitan).

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. *Stories behind stories* add so much to the overall picture. I try, whenever I can, to add history and background information to my articles.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Interesting read on this famous musical. I enjoyed the history behind it, especially how the lake was formed and its present purpose. I caught Webber''s version a few years ago and it kept my attention from beginning to end.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Dianna (teaches12345),

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. I appreciate your continued support of my writing.

I try to include background information in my articles whenever I can. I think doing so adds quite a bit to the overall "picture."


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

This brought back some less-than-pleasant memories of my first viewing of the musical many years ago on Broadway. We bought tickets to the "rear orchestra" not realizing that we would be so far back and up, that I could literally touch the ceiling if I stood on tippy toes. The performers looked like ants, though the singing was good. Voting this Up and Interesting.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Aurelio (alocsin),

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. I know exactly what you mean about "rear orchestra" seats. I think seating in a tier, up higher but closer to the stage, is better than rear orchestra.


Mama Kim 8 profile image

Mama Kim 8 4 years ago

One of my favorites ^_^ Wonderful hub, I don't know a lot of this and found it very interesting! Voted up and shared.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Sasha (Mama Kim 8),

It's nice to meet you. Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. Thanks, too, for sharing it. I appreciate your support.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

My favorite musical of all time. I think Michael crawford was probably the best phantom, and the music is amazing. I can see why Gaston got the idea for writing it after seeing the lake etc, wonderful hub Daisy, really interesting, and voted up! nell


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nell,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it.

Did you see Phantom in the West End with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman? I was quite young at the time, but I saw Phantom with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman's understudy...it was one of the few performances Sarah missed.


Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

Possibly one of the greatest novel of all times .. unfortunately I have only listened/seen The Phantom of the Opera in DVD not in theatre - the original 1986 London Cast of course :)

thanks for adding The Music of the Night video,, Michael's voice is amazing!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mike,

It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I'm glad you liked my choice of video. I think Michael Crawford is the best Phantom. He has such a powerful, expressive voice.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

Daisy, this is an extremely interesting article about the Phantom of the Opera and its history. This specific opera is my favorite. I've watch all the movies and also the opera when it was performed down here in the Johannesburg State Theater. The artists were South-Africans and the show has been approved by Andrew Loydd Webber before the official opening. My son played the tuba in the orchestra (down in the pit), so my enjoyment was quite intense. Our professional vocalists and musicians don't have to step back for any other in the world. I was so proud of them! But oh, how I would love seeing the Phantom in Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford are the best!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Martie,

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. How exciting that your son played the tuba in the Phantom production in Johannesburg! That instrument plays a prominent part in some of the songs.

Attending a performance of Phantom at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End was thrilling, even though I saw Michael Crawford and Maria Kesselman, Sarah Brightman's understudy.

One of my HubPages friends saw Phantom at her Majesty's. I can't wait for him to read this article and tell us who he saw at the performance he attended.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

Daisy.. Phantom is one of my all time favorite musical. the score, the gothic setting and the wonderful songs always give me goosebumps.. I had watched the musical twice once in early nineties - it was one of the first musicals I saw after emigrating to UK ... and then again in 2002 - in Manchester. Your rich history and detail about Gaston Leroux's source novel is inspired. I love stories like this that tell us the origins of the book and the subsequent productions... awesome!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mohan (Docmo),

Thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedule to read my article and comment in it.

Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables are my two favorite musical theater productions. I saw both of them in the West End, and I also saw Phantom in Los Angeles. I get chills whenever I hear the organ chords in Phantom.

I think it adds quite a bit to a HubPages article to include background information, a backstory, a prelude, history. It causes the main part of the article to be that much more meaningful. I might not publish as many Hubs as other writers because my articles take longer to write, but I feel that I owe it to my readers to include the additional information.

Thank you for being such a loyal supporter of my writing. I appreciate it greatly.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

I had spotted the term 'Phantom of the Opera' used in the books by scholars but did not know what it was until I developed a taste in theater.

Thanks for this comprehensive article.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Vinaya,

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I know that you haven't seen the Broadway show, but...please find an original cast recording of Phantom featuring Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman.

You will love the music, my friend!


Rusticliving profile image

Rusticliving 4 years ago from California

What a wonderful hub on the Phantom of the Opera. I was always a fan of Lon Chaney and when Phantom opened in Honolulu (1996) with the Canadian Troupe, I was in awe. I was fortunate to have vocally trained 3 students to play Christine in three separate performances. The music is breath taking. Wonderful read Daisy! Bravo! Thumbs up and shared!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Lisa (Rusticliving),

Thanks for reading my article, adding your comment, and sharing my Hub. The role of Christine Daae is a wonderful singing role with some acting added on for good measure.

The music in Phantom is fantastic! I get goosebumps whenever I hear the organ chords.


rdsparrowriter profile image

rdsparrowriter 4 years ago

Wow ! Phantom of the Opera :) I love the movie and your interesting hub :)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

rdsparrowriter,

It's nice to meet you. Thank you for reading my article and commenting.

Have you seen any of the productions of the musical Phantom of the Opera, or have you just seen one of the versions of the movie?


rdsparrowriter profile image

rdsparrowriter 4 years ago

Hi, yes I watched the Phantom of the Opera 2005. I first heard about it through my lil sis, since she was practicing 'Think of me' and ' Wishing you were somehow here again' for a singing competition at school. The song, ' Masquarade' shows all the glamour and I like it a lot. ' The Music of the Night' and ' Past the pont of no return' are so passionate. ' Wishing you were somehow here again ' and ' Past the pont of no return' are very touching and powerful to move your emotions. The voices are amazing :) I don't know, I frankly felt sorry for the phantom. Great musical, no wonder it has survived so long ...


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

rsdsparrowriter,

Thanks for visiting again. I'm glad you saw a stage production of Phantom of the Opera in addition to seeing the movie.


mts1098 profile image

mts1098 4 years ago from InsideTheManCave

Phantom of the opera soundtrack is an incredible piece of art and no one can perform it better than brightman and crawford...This was voted up because it was a fantastic read


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

mts1098,

It's nice to meet you. Thanks for reading my article and commenting.

There have been so many great artists who have sung the roles of Christine and the Phantom. I agree with you about Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford.


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

Interesting hub. I love the movie, maybe some day I'll see the show. Thanks for all the background info. Voted up and shared.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Sherry,

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub. Which version of the movie have you seen?


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

Interesting and informative, enjoyed reading. I have not seen the live show. Great hub read like a story, spellbound.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nithya (Vellur),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I appreciate your very kind words. I hope you get to see a stage production of Phantom some day. It's a fantastic show!


Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

This article is incredibly thorough. I have seen this show twice and really enjoy it. Didn't know all of this history though.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Sweet hub. Interesting and very well-written.


PurvisBobbi44 profile image

PurvisBobbi44 2 years ago from Florida

Hi Daisy,

What a great hub. My mother loved Lon Chaney and his movies. I have not thought of him in many years, so thanks for the recall of things my mother enjoyed.

I hope all is going well with you and yours. Have a wonderful Thursday.

Bobbi Purvis


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Paula,

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I like delving into the history of and background information regarding a piece. It's fun doing the research.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Kenneth,

It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Bobbi,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. I'm glad my Hub brought back some memories for you.


chateaudumer profile image

chateaudumer 2 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

Enjoyed reading this hub. I love Broadway Musicals. My favorite is Miss Saigon with Lea Salonga as KIM.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

David (chateaudumer),

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I saw a performance of Miss Saigon a number of years ago. I would have to check the program to see who sang the leading roles.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Daisy,

Nice to see you again. You are quite-welcome for me LOVING your hub. If you are following me, thanks, and if not, you are always welcome. Keep up the great work.

Be safe this weekend.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Kenneth,

I appreciate your stopping by another time. Thanks for supporting my writing.

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