Do you realize I have put 28 posts on this blog and have not talked about the Phantom of the Opera? I have talked about Erik (his humanity) and the Opera Ghost (his persona), but not the Phantom of the Opera. Ooh, sounds mysterious! That’s preciously the point.
I find it quite interesting after searching my PDF version of Gaston Leroux’s book sitting upon my computer desktop, that Leroux only uses the term Phantom twice in the entire work. Once in the title and once in the introduction, as follows:
“Yes, he existed in flesh and blood, although he assumed the complete appearance of a real phantom; that is to say, of a spectral shade.”
In the remainder of the book, the Phantom is referred to either as the Opera Ghost or Erik. Leroux is telling us that he existed in flesh and blood, but assumed the appearance of a phantom – a spectral shade – a ghost with a shadowlike appearance. Pull out the dictionary and you’ll find phantom refers to something with no substantial existence! So is he or isn’t he? Is he real or ghost? Is he man or phantom? Perhaps as Erik lurks around the Opera House, he wants to leave that question with you.
In Webber’s play and movie, the term Phantom of the Opera is used by a few characters, but not all. Meg, Christine, and Raoul call him the Phantom. Of course, Meg and Christine have an upfront personal knowledge he exists and they are good at screaming it's the Phantom of the Opera. Our dear, Raoul, however, says he’s a fable and doesn’t exist, but later, of course, changes his mind with the noose around his neck. Then years later the auctioneer recalls a strange affair of the Phantom. Erik, aka Opera Ghost, calls himself the Phantom in Webber’s version, shouting on the rooftop between the angel wings that they’d all be sorry for not doing what the Phantom asked them to do.
So why did Leroux coin the name anyway the Phantom of the Opera? Why didn’t he just name the book the "Illusive Opera Ghost" or "Erik the Madman in the Opera Cellars"? (I can hear my Leroux friends moaning at me now!) I thought it was a rational question to ask. Wouldn’t you? Is Leroux teasing us with the same question since he keeps telling us he really existed, but in the next breath refers to him as a spectral shade, apparent to the sense but doesn’t exist? Somebody make up their mind!
We have Erik, and his humanity, the man we examined behind the mask who touches the core of our hearts with his inward pain. Then we have the Opera Ghost, his persona, the projection he gives to the world when he allows you to see him, reminding you he’s walking death on the outside. Then behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows, out of public view, he takes on the appearance of a phantom, the ultimate cover or disguise making you question whether he’s real or not. All this strange speculation about his existence gives birth to the mysterious fables about the Phantom of the Opera.
Sometimes I feel like a phantom myself behind my mask as the Phantom’s Student. Sort of an off-the-wall name to pick for myself, frankly. I guess I wanted to hide, make you guess whether I was real or not, and assume the appearance of a spectral shade. Of course, you all know I’m real! Huh, you think a ghost could write such stuff? I call myself a student though, because my journey through the Phantom world has taught me much. It’s caused me to search myself inwardly, and turn around my own lessons to share with others, so I can poke and pick at each of you!
So yeah, I’m real - just hiding behind my mask, lurking in the shadows of Google-land and making occasional appearances when I feel up to it. I’m sure of all us in one way or another sometimes play the phantom role in our own lives. Haven’t you ever heard anyone coin the phrase, “Is that guy for real?” Maybe that’s where it came from, the Phantom of the Opera.
The Phantom’s Student
Order Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera Here