The Phantom of the Opera Critical Context - Essay

Gaston Leroux

Critical Context

Were it not for the text’s provision of the key scenes that have kept the story alive in the public imagination and for the films and the stage musical that followed, Gaston Leroux’s novel would have been forgotten. It must also be remembered, however, that the actual Paris Opera provided the inspiration for The Phantom of the Opera. Paris is set above a network of catacombs so extensive as not to be fully known, and Leroux was not the only Parisian writer to be fascinated with them. The fact that the focal point of French high culture was situated above a dark labyrinth provided a golden opportunity for symbolism. The symbolism embodied in this kind of sensationalist text is inevitably crude and overblown, but it is there nevertheless, and it cries out for recognition and recapitulation. Such caricaturish cinematic homages as The Phantom of the Paradise and The Phantom of Hollywood (both 1974) are as appropriate, in their own way, as the famous stage musical.