In the Preface to The Phantom of the Opera, the book’s narrator tells of the methods he used to research the legend of the phantom. Writing roughly thirty years after the events conveyed in the novel, he tells of his research in the library at the Paris Opera house; his interviews with people who were present at the time; his reliance on the memoirs of one of the opera’s directors at that time; and his own study of the opera house.
The first three chapters take place on the night that the old opera directors are retiring and turning over the directorship to Armand Moncharmin and Firmin Richard. While the performers are preparing for the night’s show, several of the dancers claim to have seen the phantom. In the basement, Joseph Buquet, the chief stagehand, is found hanged.
At the retirement party, all attention is drawn to the mature, nuanced performance of Christine Daaé, previously an obscure understudy. Raoul de Chegny, attending the opera with his older brother, Count Phillippe de Chegny, falls in love with Christine. When she faints, Raoul pushes his way into the crowd in her dressing room and tells her that he is the little boy who chased her scarf into the sea. After the room is cleared, he listens outside the door and hears a male voice talking with her inside, saying that he has made her a star.
The retiring directors tell the new directors about the phantom and his demands: he is to have Box 5 always left available to him, and he is to have 20,000 francs paid to him each month. Moncharmin and Richard think this is a joke, and they rent Box Five. Soon after they receive a letter from the phantom, expressing his displeasure about his rules being broken.
The novel gives background information. Christine traveled as a child with her father, an accomplished violinist, settling in the French seaside town of Perros-Guirec. It was there that she first met Raoul de Chegny when her scarf blew into the water, and he dived in to retrieve it. They were separated until he saw her on the stage at the opera.
Christine sends a note to Raoul, telling him to meet her in Perros. When he arrives, she is mysterious and aloof. She explains that the voice he heard in her dressing room was the Angel of Music, whom her father said would watch over her. Raoul follows her to the cemetery at midnight, where, at the tomb of her father, he hears violin music. The next day, he is found unconscious at the tomb, having been attacked by a mysterious cloaked figure with a face like a blazing skull.
Messrs. Richard and Moncharmin investigate Box 5 and are convinced that the whole phantom story is a hoax. They receive a note insisting that Mme. Giry be rehired; that Christine be given the lead in Faust; and that Box 5 be left abandoned: otherwise, the performance will be cursed. Instead, they hire a new box attendant, give the lead role to Carlotta, and sit in Box 5 themselves. During the performance, Carlotta’s voice croaks like a frog’s, and the house chandelier drops onto the audience, hurting dozens and killing the woman hired to replace Mme. Giry.
(The entire section is 1315 words.)