Saturday, October 11, 2008


Opera! After all, it's the Opera Ghost's favorite form of entertainment, and it's the setting for the story the Phantom of the Opera. So what's all the hype about opera anyway in Paris in the mid-19th century? Plenty!

During the mid-19th century, numerous composers, French, Italian, and from other countries wrote several famous operas. Paris in the 19th century actually had two opera houses. The original was known as the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique, which was destroyed by a massive fire. It had been the chief opera house in Paris and center for ballet since 1821. The second opera house in Paris, built by Garnier, which our Ladyghost has written about below, was opened in 1875. Of course, the Opera Populaire is a fictional opera house given the name by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Grand Opera in the 19th century usually contained four or five acts, and were lavish productions with large casts, orchestras, outstanding designs and sets. Ballet at opera was also developed in Paris, and ballet performances usually appeared near the beginning of the second act, and was part of the performance to satisfy the wealthy aristocrats who enjoyed the ballet dancers.

Attending operas was an important aspect of social life, as well. While doing research recently for one of my books, I came across an interesting historical comment for wealthy men stating, "It is imperative for a man of fashion to appear at the Opera on Friday's."

So what about the operas presented in The Phantom of the Opera. Are they real operas or the imagination of Leroux and Webber? Well some, yes - some no.

The first opera mentioned in Webber's work is at auction with Lot 663, the production poster of Hannibal by Chalumeau. This is a fictional work, though there is an opera by the name of "Hannibal."

The second mentioned in Webber's work at auction was Lot 664 talks about the production by , Robert le Diable by Meyerbeer. Boy, talk about symbolism in that reference! This was a Opera, written by Giacoma Meyerbeer. Robert le Diable translated means "Robert the Devil." I've included a link below so you can read the synopsis.

The third opera in Webber's work, Il Muto, is a fictional work in the story, as well as Don Juan Triumphant, of course, written by the Phantom.

The opera mentioned in Leroux's original work, Faust, is an actual opera about making a pack with the Devil. There are also numerous other works mentioned in Leroux's version, which are actual works and composers, and I quote, "All the great composers of the day had conducted their own works in turns. Faure and Krauss had sung; and, on that evening, Christine Daae had revealed her true self, for the first time, to the astonished and enthusiastic audience. Gounod had conducted the Funeral March of a Marionnette; Reyer, his beautiful overture to Siguar; Saint Saens, the Danse Macabre and a Reverie Orientale; Massenet, an unpublished Hungarian march; Guiraud, his Carnaval; Delibes, the Valse Lente from Sylvia and the Pizzicati from Coppelia. Mlle. Krauss had sung the bolero in the Vespri Siciliani; and Mlle. Denise Bloch the drinking song in Lucrezia Borgia. But the real triumph was reserved for Christine Daae, who had begun by singing a few passages from Romeo and Juliet..." (by Gounod).

I hope you find this post informative and interesting. To truly understand and appreciate any story, knowing the history behind what makes it a great work in itself is always helpful. Happy reading as you follow the links to learn more about Opera!

Below are links for interesting reading regarding opera:
Grand Opera in the 19th century - link: Grand Opera
Origins of Opera - link: Opera
Brief history of Opera - link: The History of Opera
Robert le Diable - link.
Faust - link.

Your servant, as always - who has never been to an opera herself!

The Phantom's Student

Order Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera in Paperback Here


Inés said...

Hello our dear student,

You´ve done a very good job (as usual) and your words about Opera have been very interesting.

I´ve never seen "The Phantom" @:( but I´ve been to an Opera four times:
The Magic Flute, Madame Butterfly, Tosca and Turandot.

Turandot is my favourite, not only the music is sublime...The libretto is wonderful! It´s a true story about beauty and obsession, curse and love.

These links can be interesting if you want to know something more about "Turandot" (music and story):

Greetings from Spain!

P.S: Sorry about the quality, but I tried to find videos with English subtitles.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I'm extremely late to the party but I wanted to mention something interesting about Robert le diable, which I found on Wikipedia.

Robert le diable was a medieval French legend about a woman who wanted a son. Having prayed for a son with no avail time and time again, she turns to the devil. From the moment the boy is born, he shows vicious instincts which, as he grows into manhood, results in a career of monstrous crime.

When he finally realises the horror he stirs around him, he goes to Rome to confess to the pope. He undergoes a rigorous penance living in the disguise of a fool at the emporer's court in Rome. Three times he delivers the city from the assault of the Saracens, but refusing all rewards, he ends his life as a pious hermit.

Quite a lot to think about!