Mysterious goings-on at the Paris opera house are brushed aside by its new owners, but the old-timers know that the resident ghost is more than an urban legend. One of the greatest gothic horror novels ever written, Gaston Leroux’s atmospheric adventure still chills first-time readers, then lures them back time and time again. Long eclipsed by the huge popularity of its musical adaptation, the book once again takes centre stage in this lavish new edition that drips with macabre imagery and theatrical allusion.
Winner in the Literature category at the 2021 BBDP Awards.
This edition uses the 2012 Oxford World’s Classics translation by David Coward
Bound in screen-printed cloth
Set in Poliphilus with Amarante as display
7 colour illustrations, including 2 double-page spreads, and 27 black & white chapter openings
Printed page edges
10˝ x 6¾˝
The mysterious resident of the Paris Opéra
Deep beneath the Paris opera house, another world exists: vast production sets, dressing rooms, workshops and stables. But venture further underground, beyond the labyrinth of long-forgotten storerooms and dimly lit corridors, and eventually you will come across the vast lair of the mysterious Opéra ghost. Hiding his hideous face behind a mask, he lurks out of sight but is ever-present. That is, until his unrequited love for the beautiful singer Christine Daaé ignites both his passion and his rage, and he uses every cruelty at his disposal to steal Christine’s heart from the dashing Viscount Raoul de Chagny.
Set almost entirely inside the celebrated cavernous Opéra Garnier, this macabre adventure races between the public and private spaces of this world within a world – a parallel universe of good and bad, visible and concealed, smoke and mirrors. While the opulent foyer and auditorium radiate glitz and glamour, behind the scenes it is an eerie and disorientating place, populated with pallid stage hands and elderly workers who never leave their subterranean world, the contrast between above and below both stark and ominous.
From newspaper cutting to international phenomenon
In May 1896, Gaston Leroux heard about a concierge who was killed by a falling chandelier during a performance at the Opéra Garnier. Reported as a freak accident, many believed that it confirmed the existence of a fabled ghost, and the seed of a story was planted. Already a successful journalist and author, Leroux put his detective stories aside to create a gothic tale with a ghoulish protagonist, and locked himself away until it was complete. Although it wasn’t an immediate bestseller, The Phantom of the Opera was widely translated and serialised as soon as it was published, a hit long before being sought out by Universal Studios.
An incredible collection of talent in this essential edition
David Coward’s 2012 translation is the latest and the very best, based on the complete unabridged text and incorporating all of Leroux’s trademark stylistic flourishes. And who better to introduce a novel steeped in the world of theatre than Simon Callow? His vast knowledge and experience of acting, writing and directing informs his deeply researched piece that reveals the fascinating history of the Palais Garnier as well as biographic detail on the eccentric workaholic Leroux. Not to mention Callow’s inside knowledge, gleaned from playing one of the Opéra’s new co-directors in the film adaptation of the novel.
The looming disaster, which the foulest monster who ever walked the earth had planned as a way of defending his hiding place, would be his revenge for unrequited love
Each of the novel’s 27 chapters is adorned with an individually designed decoration by Taylor Dolan. The saturated colours and poster-like period style of her arresting full-colour illustrations and binding design are inspired by a childhood spent in and around the theatre, and her artwork for the endpapers show a weird cast of minor characters parading at the Opéra’s masked ball. All of Dolan’s originals for the stunning artwork were screenprinted by hand for reproduction in this exquisitely produced edition.
About Gaston Leroux
Gaston Leroux was born in Paris in 1868. He studied law but turned to journalism to support his hedonistic lifestyle. His principal work as a theatre critic and court reporter included an investigation into the use of the former opera house during the Paris Commune, but also international events such as the 1905 Russian Revolution. In 1907 he began writing fiction. His first novel, Le Mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room, 1907), is considered one of the earliest and best of the ‘locked-room’ mysteries. Leroux went on to write 39 mystery novels, many featuring his cool-headed amateur detective, Joseph Rouletabille, nine short stories and two plays before he died in 1927. Inspired by rumours and unsolved mysteries relating to the new Paris opera house, the Palais Garnier, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (The Phantom of the Opera) was serialised from 1909 to 1910 and published as a book in 1911. Moderately popular at the time of publication, it has gone on to eclipse Leroux’s other works, reappearing in acclaimed adaptations around the world, from films to stage musicals and children’s books.
About David Coward
David Coward is Emeritus Professor of French Literature at the University of Leeds. He is the author of A History of French Literature (2002) and a long-serving contributor to the literary pages of newspapers and periodicals in the UK and the US. He has translated some 30 books, ranging from the plays of Molière and the short fictions of the Marquis de Sade to stories by Maupassant and novels by Simenon. His translation of Albert Cohen’s Belle du Seigneur was awarded the Scott-Moncrieff Prize in 1996.
About Simon Callow
Simon Callow is an actor, author and director. He joined the National Theatre in 1979, where he created the role of Mozart in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. His many one-man shows include The Mystery of Charles Dickens, Being Shakespeare, A Christmas Carol, Inside Wagner’s Head, Juvenalia and, most recently, The Man Jesus. He has appeared in many films, including A Room with a View, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Shakespeare in Love. He played Gilles André in the 2004 film of The Phantom of the Opera and the Duke of Sandringham in the television series Outlander. He directed Shirley Valentine in the West End and on Broadway, Single Spies at the National Theatre and Carmen Jones at the Old Vic, as well as the film of The Ballad of the Sad Café. He has written biographies of Oscar Wilde, Charles Laughton and Charles Dickens, and three autobiographical books: Being an Actor, Love is Where it Falls and My Life in Pieces. The third volume of his Orson Welles biography, One Man Band, appeared in 2016; Being Wagner, a short biography of Wagner, was published in 2017. His forthcoming book, London’s Great Theatres, is a collaboration with the photographer Derry Moore.
About Taylor Dolan
Taylor Dolan is a freelance illustrator living in rural Arkansas. She completed a Master’s in Children’s Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art in 2018. Dolan’s illustrations have been commissioned by HarperCollins, Levi’s, Scoop magazine and hitrecord.org, and her work has been exhibited in London, Edinburgh, Paris and Nanjing. Having studied theatre from the age of seven and performed in over 40 productions, including the Emmy-winning HitRECord on TV, Dolan brings theatre expertise as well as her distinctive style to her illustrations for The Phantom of the Opera.
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