French Legend: The Phantom of the Opera

Halloween Week at UL Global

By Tatiana Da Silva

The ghost of the Opéra Garnier is the story of a little boy named Ernest who became an orphan in 1863 after his mother, a famous dancer at the Paris opera, died because of severe burns caused by one of the opera’s gas ramps.

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However, this tragic accident did not stop Ernest from going on to become a virtuoso, he even fell in love with an opera ballerina. Ten years later, fate was determined and the hall on Rue Pelletier caught fire during the rehearsal of a ballet. Ernest saw his beloved die before his eyes and everyone believed he had also died after the building collapsed, yet strange events began to occur at the Palais Garnier (the new opera house.)

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Inconsolable and disfigured, he is said to have found refuge in the underground of the Opéra Garnier. He dedicated the end of his life to his art and to the completion of his work, a hymn to love and death. He is said to have died in that basement but no body was ever recovered. In 1910 a writer, Gaston Leroux, took inspiration from legend and several troubling events to write his famous novel: Le Fantôme de l’Opéra.

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In the foreword, he writes: “We remember that recently, when digging into the basement of the Opera to bury the phonographic voices of the artists, the peak of the workers exposed a corpse. I immediately had proof that this corpse was that of the Phantom of the Opera! I made the administrator himself touch this proof, and now I am indifferent to the newspapers telling me that a victim of the commune was found there.”

Indeed, from morning to night, the ghost of Ernest seems to haunt the palace; a machinist is found hanging, we could have concluded to suicide, except that the rope is missing!  and soon after, a dancer loses her life after a fall from a gallery.

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A young singer, Christine Daaé, said she met the famous Phantom of the Opera in the 1890s. He told her how he watched over her while she was a little girl and has finally risen the courage to declare his flame. He also says he watches all of the performances from Lodge n°5 of the Opera but amazed, curious and mostly terrorized by the passion of the ghost, she decides to flee from him.

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Ernest does not admit defeat and on May 20, 1896, Christine was given the lead role in a performance following a tragic accident. Christine’s rival for the lead saw her mother die under the chandelier of the Palais Garnier which broke away from the ceiling. Having understood that it was the work of the ghost of the Opera, Christine decides to abandon dance and get married. She never hears from the phantom again.

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To this day no spectator wishes to attend the performances in Lodge 5 of the Palais, would you?


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