Discover the real history behind 'The Phantom of the Opera'
Learn about the myths and legends that inspired the classic musical.
The Phantom of the Opera is there, inside your... history book? He could be, or at least inside a book of legends. The story of a masked, disfigured Paris Opera House dweller who puts an ingenue under his musical spell sounds like the stuff of myths. But stories of a chandelier crash and a ghost at the opera house in Paris circulated long before The Phantom of the Opera , now set to close in February 2023, became the longest-running Broadway show and third-longest-running West End show in history.
Compoer Andrew Lloyd Webber based the show on a 1910 novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux. And he based his novel on multiple spooky events in the Palais Garnier, the opera house where the Phantom book and musical are set.
Some of the stories of people, places, and events that inspired The Phantom of the Opera are true. Others are probably not, but they're fun legends that Leroux immortalized and Webber later made famous with his iconic score. While no one knows exactly how true these stories are, here's how they inspired Leroux to create the tale that haunts and thrills audiences over a century later, and how Webber made them his own.
Experience these tales now before The Phantom of the Opera closes on Broadway.
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Is The Phantom of the Opera based on a true story?
Yes and no — the plot of The Phantom of the Opera is fictional, but parts are inspired by true stories and legends. While everything in the musical did not actually happen, many elements of the show (and the novel it's based on) are taken from real stories of what happened at a Paris opera house. For example, there was actually a devastating chandelier accident, and there are many rumors of a ghostly presence haunting the theatre.
Read more below to find out what true (and ghost) stories inspired the record-breaking show, and see them on stage before The Phantom of the Opera closes.
The chandelier crash in Phantom was inspired by a true event.
The Act 1 finale, during which a one-ton chandelier comes crashing down onto the stage, is one of the most iconic moments in The Phantom of the Opera musical. It's thrilling to watch live, and it was inspired by a real tragedy at the Palais Garnier. Contrary to popular belief, though, it wasn't actually the chandelier that fell. On May 20, 1896, a performance of the opera Helle was underway when a counterweight, one of multiple which held the chandelier up, broke loose and fell through the ceiling.
One person was killed, and several others were injured. Forensic investigators later said a nearby electrical wire probably overheated and melted the steel cable holding up the counterweight, causing its fall. In The Phantom of the Opera book and musical, the Phantom cuts the whole chandelier loose during the curtain call of the opera Il Muto , in order to exact revenge on Christine for falling in love with Raoul instead of him. Luckily, no one in the musical dies from the crash.
The Paris Opera House really has an underground lake.
Yes, the Palais Garnier actually has an underground lake! In the Phantom musical and book, the lake is the centerpiece of the Phantom's lair. A feat of theatrical magic transforms the Broadway stage into the lake, on which the Phantom and Christine ride on a canoe amid the mist, as he sings the music of the night.
Legend goes that a faceless man (and some fish) once lived in the lake. Leroux heard the rumor and ran with it. In reality, the lake looks more like a sewer and had a much more practical purpose: keeping well and steam pump water away while the opera house foundation was being built. The only occupants of the "lake" as of late are a single white catfish (the opera house staff's unofficial pet) and French firefighters, who practice swimming in the dark there. We wonder if they've ever heard music coming from seemingly nowhere while doing so...
The Phantom is based on a real ghost story.
The many legends that inspired the Phantom are shrouded in as much mystery as the character himself. One story goes that in 1873, a stage fire destroyed the Paris Opera company's old venue, the Salle Le Peletier. (That part is true.) A ballerina died and her fiancé, a pianist, was disfigured. Legend has it that he retreated to the underground of the Palais Garnier, the company's new venue, and lived there until he died. Is he the same faceless man that supposedly lived in the lake? That's uncertain, but it's clear how these legends inspired the Phantom's appearance and living situation in Leroux's book.
Another rumor that inspired Leroux is the story of a ghost who haunts the Palais Garnier. Not only did the tale inspire him, but Leroux became obsessed with proving that the ghost was real. In the prologue to The Phantom of the Opera novel, he talks about the mysterious disappearance of one Vicomte de Chagny, who disappeared to Canada for 15 years without a trace. When he finally returned to Paris, he immediately went to the Palais and asked for a free opera ticket.
Leroux goes on to claim that Chagny and his brother were fighting over Christine Daaé (a fictional character), insinuating that a "tragedy" happened between the two. Since the Vicomte is clearly the inspiration for Christine's childhood friend and lover, Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, in Leroux's novel, it appears he believed the brother is the ghost, who was killed in some sort of tussle and now haunts the shadowy corners of the Palais Garnier.
Though the ghost's presence is hearsay — or, according to some sources, the opera house ghost is actually a jilted old woman — Leroux firmly believed the ghost is real. He also claimed that a body was unearthed below the Palais Garnier, which belonged to the would-be ghost and proved his story. (The fact that the revolutionary French Commune government used the Palais basement to hold prisoners is a somewhat more likely explanation for the body.) After all that, it's almost ironic that the titular character of The Phantom of the Opera isn't an actual ghost, but he kept the name "The Phantom" for his otherworldly, ghostly presence.
Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote Christine Daaé based on his real love story.
Christine Daaé is a fully fictional character, but some researchers say she was inspired by Christina Nilsson, a Swedish soprano who enjoyed a 20-year career as an acclaimed international opera singer. Other accounts say that Christine was partly inspired by a ballerina named Nanine Dorival, though no one knows for sure. Dorival (along with an acquaintance of Leroux's named Madame la Baronne de Castelot-Barbezac) is also said to have inspired the character of Meg Giry, as Dorival and Giry's mothers are both boxkeepers.
What's certain is that Webber's real-life romance inspired how he'd adapt Christine's character for the musical 70 years later. When he was writing The Phantom of the Opera , Webber was married to Sarah Brightman, a classical soprano who he'd met and married after she starred in his musical Cats in the West End.
He wrote the role of Christine for Brightman, composing the character's songs to fit her vocal range. After she originated the role in the West End, Webber naturally wanted Brightman to do so on Broadway, too. The Actor's Equity union refused at first, saying he should cast an American actor and that international Broadway leads had to be major stars. But love conquered all — Webber insisted, and he came to a compromise with Equity that he'd cast an American lead in his next London production. Webber and Brightman eventually divorced, but her influence on the role remains forever.
The Phantom of the Opera love triangle comes from a legend.
One of the inspirations for the main characters' love triangle is mentioned above, about how two brothers supposedly fought over a woman named Christine. There's another spooky story, though, that is said to have inspired Leroux. According to legend, a ballet dancer named Boismaison fell for the aforementioned ballerina Nanine Dorival. However, a French sergeant, Monsieur Mauzurier, also loved her, and he took it upon himself to get Boismaison out of the picture.
Boismaison had willed his bones to the Paris Opera in the hopes that he'd stay near his lover even after he died. According to a now-debunked legend, they honored his wishes and held onto his bones, even using his skeleton as a prop in Le Freischütz , an opera by Carl Maria von Weber. Nevertheless, the fabled love triangle inspired that of Raoul, the Phantom, and Christine. With source material as bizarre as this, it's no wonder that The Phantom of the Opera 's love story became a Gothic horror for the ages.
Originally published on Sep 29, 2022 13:00
The Phantom of the Opera
By gaston leroux.
- The Phantom of the Opera Summary
There are rumors that the opera house is haunted by a phantom who makes himself known by sending letters to the managers and by causing disturbances. On the retirement gala for the old opera managers, opera singer Christine attracts the attention of her childhood sweetheart, Raoul.
One night during a performance of Faust, with the resident prima donna, Carlotta , playing the female lead, the Phantom causes Carlotta to lose her voice and the chandelier to fall into the audience.
Christine is kidnapped by the masked phantom; he tells her his name is Erik and reveals her love for her. When Christine unmasks the phantom out of curiosity, his ugliness shocks her. The phantom decides to keep Christine prisoner for the rest of her life, but then he allows her to leave after she promises to wear his ring and remain faithful to him. Christine later tells Raoul that she was kidnapped; Raoul promises to run away with her, both unaware that Erik has been listening to their conversation.
During a production of Faust , Erik kidnaps Christine again and gives her an ultimatum: marry him or he will blow up the entire opera house. Christine refuses, but then she finds out that Erik has kidnapped Raoul as well as the Persian (Erik's old acquaintance) and has trapped them inside a torture chamber. In order to save them, as well as the occupants of the opera house, Christine agrees to marry Erik.
The Phantom of the Opera Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Phantom of the Opera is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
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Its beauty is an illusion wrought by the music.
Why do you think Christine thought she was dreaming when she first heard the voice?
I think she thought the voice was so beautiful, could it be real?
Study Guide for The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera study guide contains a biography of Gaston Leroux, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- About The Phantom of the Opera
- Character List
Essays for The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.
- Erik of the Phantom of the Opera and Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights as Byronic Heroes
- Identity Issues in The Phantom of the Opera
Lesson Plan for The Phantom of the Opera
- About the Author
- Study Objectives
- Common Core Standards
- Introduction to The Phantom of the Opera
- Relationship to Other Books
- Bringing in Technology
- Notes to the Teacher
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- The Phantom of the Opera Bibliography
Wikipedia Entries for The Phantom of the Opera
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The Phantom of the Opera
58 pages • 1 hour read
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- Prologue-Chapter 4
- Chapters 5-8
- Chapters 9-12
- Chapters 13-17
- Chapters 18-21
- Chapter 22-Epilogue
- Character Analysis
- Symbols & Motifs
- Important Quotes
- Essay Topics
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Summary and Study Guide
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux is a Gothic mystery novel first published serially in 1910. The novel follows a “ghost” who haunts the Paris Opera and the mysterious incidents attributed to this figure. The characters and the narrator himself try to uncover the secret of this ghost, who is really a masked man infatuated opera singer, Christine Daaé . The novel has been adapted into several formats, most notably a 1925 silent film directed by Rupert Julien and a 1986 musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. A 2004 film adaptation of this musical directed by Joel Schumacher was nominated for three Academy Awards and three Golden Globes. This guide follows Arcturus Publishing Limited’s paperback edition, published in 2021. This edition uses Alexander Teixera de Mattos’ translation.
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The Prologue opens with the narrative’s frame: The narrator says they will explain the mysterious incidents at the Opera House through the existence of the "Opera Ghost". His investigation proves that this phantom was really a man with an incredible talent for illusions. By tracing the ghost’s life and movements, the narrator says they can explain the disappearances, deaths, and accidents that occurred 30 years prior.
The story itself begins on the night of the Opera’s gala performance where Christine Daaé unexpectedly dazzles the audience . Many young dancers claim to see the Opera Ghost lurking about, and when they hear news of stagehand Joseph Buquet's sudden death, they fear the ghost has struck. The retiring managers Poligny and Debienne relay the ghost's demands and threats to the new managers Moncharmin and Richard, who think the Opera employees are playing an elaborate joke. The managers soon receive their own demands from the Opera Ghost.
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Viscount Raoul de Chagny , who has been in love with Christine since childhood, visits her after the miraculous performance, but she pretends to not remember him. Raoul overhears a man's voice congratulating Christine in her dressing room and thinks she is in love with someone else. Raoul follows Christine to Perros, the seaside town where they spent a year of their childhood together. Christine thinks she has been visited by the heavenly Angel of Music , and this mysterious figure plays violin for her in the graveyard, where Christine visits her father’s tomb. Raoul discovers the Angel is a man in a mask and worries Christine is being taken advantage of.
Back in Paris, the managers ignore the ghost's demands and even act in direct opposition to them. Soon, disaster strikes. The opera star, La Carlotta , croaks onstage during a show, the men hear the ghost's voice taunting them, the chandelier crashes into the audience, and Christine disappears. After many days, Raoul finally meets Christine at a masked ball where he confronts her about the Angel of Music. She refuses to explain and runs away to her dressing room. Raoul, in hiding, hears the Angel's voice calling to Christine, and as if by magic, Christine vanishes through her mirror.
Later, Christine and Raoul play at being engaged and she agrees to explain her strange behavior. The Angel of Music is a man named Erik who hides his face because of its extreme scarring. Erik taught Christine to sing again, and on the night of the opera’s chandelier accident, he took her to his underground house. Christine is afraid to run away but afraid to go back to the monster in the cellars. The night Raoul promises to take Christine away, she vanishes again in the middle of her performance. Meanwhile, the managers slowly go insane, as their attempts to uncover the truth of the ghost only prove his existence further.
The police dismiss Raoul's story about the ghost man, but the Persian—a retired police chief who knows Erik—believes and helps him. They go through the revolving mirror in Christine's dressing room and descend into the cellars of the Opera where they encounter frightening figures. They try to sneak into Erik's house, but accidentally drop into his torture chamber. In the adjacent room, Erik forces Christine to answer his marriage proposal by the following night. Erik illuminates the torture chamber and disorients Raoul and the Persian to madness. Five minutes before Christine’s deadline, Raoul and the Persian discover a cellar full of explosives. Erik intends to blow up the entire Opera if Christine rejects him.
Christine agrees to the marriage and pleads with Erik to spare Raoul and the Persian. Raoul and the Persian pass out from exhaustion in the torture chamber and the Persian awakens to find themselves in a sitting room with Christine and Erik. Erik mixes a draft for the Persian, who falls asleep again and finds himself back in his own room upon waking. Erik, dying of love, later visits the Persian to share that he freed Christine and Raoul after he finally experienced love's happiness. Erik dies shortly after. The narrator share's Erik's tragic history of rejection in the Epilogue, asking the audience to pity and forgive the unfortunate man.
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The Phantom of the Opera
A young soprano becomes the obsession of a disfigured and murderous musical genius who lives beneath the Paris Opéra House. A young soprano becomes the obsession of a disfigured and murderous musical genius who lives beneath the Paris Opéra House. A young soprano becomes the obsession of a disfigured and murderous musical genius who lives beneath the Paris Opéra House.
- Joel Schumacher
- Gaston Leroux
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- Patrick Wilson
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- 40 Metascore
- 7 wins & 42 nominations total
- The Phantom
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- Trivia In April 2004, an audience of the stage version of "The Phantom of the Opera" in London was asked to stay behind at the end and record the sound effects for the chandelier crash in the movie.
- Goofs When Raoul is on his way down the stairs to the Phantom's lair, he falls through a hole, down into a pit of water. Iron bars then lower from above, but since Raoul fell straight down into the water, it would be impossible for the bars to be there.
[as he leads Christine down the tunnels of the opera]
The Phantom : [sings] Sing once again with me our strange duet. / My power over you grows stronger yet. / And though you turn from me to glance behind, / The Phantom of the Opera is there, inside your mind.
- Connections Featured in HBO First Look: The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
- Soundtracks Auction at the Opera Populaire, 1919 (Prologue) Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber , Charles Hart , and Richard Stilgoe Performed by Patrick Wilson Produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber , Nigel Wright , Joel Schumacher , Simon Lee , and Guy de Villiers
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- Dec 12, 2004
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- January 21, 2005 (United States)
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- $70,000,000 (estimated)
- Dec 26, 2004
- Runtime 2 hours 23 minutes
- Black and White
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The story behind ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is truly classic
I’ve always enjoyed the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, especially “The Phantom of the Opera.” But I never really understood the story behind the music. So I finally managed to snap up a copy of the Gaston Leroux book.
I’m happy to report that there is an understandable version of this classic novel. “The only complete … modern Americanized translation available,” writes translator Lowell Blair.
Here’s how the story goes: Christine Daae is filling in for the star of the production “Faust” at the Paris Opera House. Opera critics say that Christine’s singing is beautiful and stunning.
Around this same time, she reunites with her childhood sweetheart, Raoul de Chagny.
Raoul discovers that Christine is under the influence of a mysterious “Angel of Music.” On several occasions this angel has taken Christine to a mysterious underground world.
During one of these excursions, Christine discovers that her angel is really the Phantom of the Opera, a spirit who has haunted the Paris Opera House for years. The Phantom is obsessed with Christine.
The Phantom causes trouble for the new managers of the Paris Opera House by demanding that certain seats be left empty during the performances and instigating anonymous practical jokes. The managers, Armand Montcharmin and Firmin Richard, write off the Phantom but grow increasingly aware of his presence.
Later in the story, the Phantom murders a woman, brings down a chandelier and kidnaps Christine, for good.
Raoul and a man known only as The Persian finally rescue Christine. But they encounter plenty of bizarre opera dwellers along the way.
There aren’t many “classics” that will keep you on the edge of your seat. But “The Phantom of the Opera” is one of them. Leroux writes as though he has uncovered proof that the Phantom of the Opera really existed. In some parts of the book, he adds little footnotes that say the Paris Opera House management requested that he give no further detail about a specific situation.
Who knows? Maybe there really WAS (is?) a Phantom. It certainly seems believable after reading this book.
“The Phantom of the Opera” is an incredible Gothic tale of murder and obsession. It’s horrifying to read but impossible to put down.
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The Phantom of the Opera
Gaston leroux, everything you need for every book you read..
Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
The Phantom of the Opera: Introduction
The phantom of the opera: plot summary, the phantom of the opera: detailed summary & analysis, the phantom of the opera: themes, the phantom of the opera: quotes, the phantom of the opera: characters, the phantom of the opera: symbols, the phantom of the opera: literary devices, the phantom of the opera: theme wheel, brief biography of gaston leroux.
Historical Context of The Phantom of the Opera
Other books related to the phantom of the opera.
- Full Title: The Phantom of the Opera
- When Written: 1909-1910
- Where Written: Paris, France
- When Published: Serially from September 1909 to January 1910. Published as a novel in March 1910.
- Literary Period: Realism
- Genre: Novel
- Setting: The Paris Opera House, the Palais Garnier
- Climax: Christine agrees to marry Erik so that he will not blow up the Opera House.
- Antagonist: Erik
- Point of View: First person
Extra Credit for The Phantom of the Opera
Underground Lake. Although the Phantom of the Opera is a fictional character and there is no secret lake beneath the Paris Opera House, Gaston Leroux discovered during his years as a journalist that an underground river does run beneath the city of Paris. This river, which passes near the Palais Garnier, even made the construction of the Parisian subway difficult.
Gambling. A crucial motive behind Gaston Leroux’s decision to become a journalist—the profession that would later lead him to develop his skills as a novelist—is that he spent all of his inheritance money on gambling, which almost led him to bankruptcy and forced him to take on a second job.
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'phantom of the opera': 20 years in the pit.
'the phantom of the opera', 'all i ask of you'.
Howard McGillin ...... Phantom
Sandra Joseph ...... Christine
Tim Martin Gleason ... Raoul
recorded at the Majestic Theatre
Lowell Hershey (center) has played trumpet in the Phantom of the Opera orchestra since the musical opened on Broadway in 1988. Ben Strothmann hide caption
A majority of the musicians that comprise the current Phantom of the Opera pit orchestra.
Howard McGillin (as the Phantom) and Jennifer Hope Wills (as Christine) share a moment in Phantom of the Opera , Broadway's longest-running musical. Joan Marcus hide caption
Howard McGillin (as the Phantom) and Jennifer Hope Wills (as Christine) share a moment in Phantom of the Opera , Broadway's longest-running musical.
The Phantom of the Opera is the longest-running musical on Broadway, ever. It surpassed Cats more than two years ago, when it reached its 7,486th performance.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's show, about a disfigured genius who operates from the bowels of an opera house, still plays eight times a week at the Majestic Theatre, on West 44th Street, where it opened in 1988. The pit orchestra is still playing the same notes, night after night.
Sarah Brightman and the other original stars of Phantom of the Opera are long gone. But in the orchestra pit, things are different. Thirteen musicians in the orchestra have been on the job since day one.
Trumpeter Lowell Hershey and French-horn player Peter Reit are original members. They've been down in the pit for more than 20 years. They've had their parts memorized for 19 of them.
"I think for a lot of us," Reit says, "we don't want songs running through heads outside the show. We don't want to be waking up in the morning and by mistake start singing Phantom of the Opera in the shower. And I've never had that."
The same can't be said of Hershey.
"When the show started, the melodies were constantly going through my head," Hershey recalls. "And I would wake up in the middle of the night and hear some tunes. My son loved the music so much, it was playing on the radio every time I came home. I had to ask him not to play it. But then, after a few weeks, I got to the point where if somebody asked me to sing something from the show, I couldn't do it. Somehow, my brain just repressed it."
Harpist Henry Fanelli has been playing in Phantom since opening night: Jan. 26, 1988. As he plucks a few notes, warming up in the pit before performance number 8,490, he says he still gets a little anxious.
"I've always had nightmares of not being able to get to the theatre, being stuck somewhere, or harp breaks," he says. "I have those anxiety dreams all the time."
And, as far as playing the same music every night goes, Fanelli says he's learned to appreciate the small things. "Playing music and listening to music is not exactly the same thing," he says. "It's a wonderfully written harp part. There's one little chord I have. The audience would never know the difference, but there are nights where I arpeggiate the chord exactly right. There are places all through the show where I really am satisfied if I play it the way I like to play it."
Twenty-seven players squeeze into the pit for each show. For stretches when they're not playing, Hershey and the other musicians carry along books, crosswords and Sudoku.
"Because I've done it for so long," Hershey says, "I know in my body when I'm supposed to be playing. When I'm not playing, I read books, I study languages, and when I pick up the instrument again — it's a little like Tourette's syndrome — I drop the book and blat out a few notes on trumpet, and pick up the book again."
Phantom Faux Pas
With a show that has run this long, every mistake that's possible to make has been made. Hershey says that his personal worst was tooting a loud note, entering a bar before everyone else.
Many things can go wrong; it's even part of the plot. The Phantom causes a one-ton chandelier to crash to the stage, at which point a stagehand character gets strung up from the rafters, dead.
For most of the Phantom 's pit musicians, the Majestic Theatre hasn't been a dangerous workplace. But Hershey does recall a certain hair emergency.
"There was a moment with the pyrotechnics — there's a flash when Phantom disappears, and a spark from the explosion went and landed in the hair of the oboist. She was uninjured, but there was some damage to her hair, which the hair department took care of. They're experts in that field."
That kind of excitement is rare. Mostly, the Phantom runs like a clock. Eight shows a week. Twenty years. The notes never change.
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- Andrew Lloyd Webber
The Truth About The Phantom of the Opera
By stacy conradt | may 19, 2015 | updated: oct 9, 2021, 12:30 pm edt.
Whether you prefer the 1925 movie featuring Lon Chaney, the original Broadway production, or the 2004 Gerard Butler remake, there’s no question that the chandelier crash scene is one of the most iconic moments in The Phantom of the Opera .
Though such a scene may seem improbable, author Gaston Leroux took inspiration from the Paris Opera House, the Palais Garnier, for his 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera . That includes some of the more fantastical moments, from the chandelier to the underground lake.
Though there’s no island in the middle for an opera house ghoul to inhabit, there is a fairly large body of water underneath the Palais Garnier. After ground was broken for the opera house in 1861, workers and engineers were stumped by the water that continuously bubbled up from the ground they were trying to clear. In the end, they simply worked around it. In 2010, Pierre Vidal, curator of the opera house’s museum and library, told The Telegraph that workers eventually gave up trying to pump the site dry. Instead, they built a huge stone water tank to house the displaced water.
The tank is a far cry from the eerily romantic, candle-lit haven in Phantom . Due to modern day health and safety codes, the area is now brightly lit. And its use is actually quite practical—it’s where local firefighters train for underwater rescue missions.
Now, about that chandelier. As far as we know, no one has ever deliberately sabotaged the seven-ton bronze and crystal fixture. But in 1896, a counterweight from the massive chandelier did fall, killing one person .
There may be more nonfiction mixed in with Leroux's story. Legend has it that Leroux gave a deathbed confession in 1927, claiming that what he had written 17 years earlier was absolutely true. While there is enough crossover between fact and fiction to make you wonder, Vidal said no worker or patron has ever claimed to have encountered a ghost at the Paris Opera: “Although we do blame the Phantom as a joke if something inexplicable happens.”
A version of this story ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2021.
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It’s no exaggeration to say that Lloyd Webber and ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ have changed the trajectory of musical theater.
No stranger to the Broadway blockbuster, legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber would hit heights previously unseen, even by him, with the opening of The Phantom of the Opera in 1986.
While it arrived on the heels of earlier successes Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), Evita (1976), and Cats (1981), among others, the inspiration behind Phantom gave Lloyd Webber the opportunity to write the sort of show he hadn’t before and had been longing to… a high romance. He and his collaborators, lyricist Charles Hart and librettist Richard Stilgoe, loosely adapted the 1910 novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux, amping up the tale of a haunted Paris opera house into a tragic love story between a deformed genius and his muse.
“I basically took elements from the book, and quite a few elements from the book, but I basically wrote my own tale about somebody who was writing and composing music that was out of its time,” Lloyd Webber told The Belfast Telegraph .
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The part of Christine Daaé, the titular opera ghost’s favored soprano, was written for Lloyd Webber’s then-wife, Sarah Brightman, with the role of the Phantom going to tenor Michael Crawford. Brightman and Crawford, along with the rest of the original West End company, are featured on the 1987 London Cast Recording, which remains the best-selling cast recording of all time and is certified quadruple Platinum in the United States.
The production was helmed by hugely influential American director Harold Prince, and when it came to Broadway in 1988, was immediately a critical hit and a box office smash. But while the musical brought droves of theater fans to both its London and New York City homes – and snatched up Olivier and Tony Awards in the process – the cast recording allowed people all over the world to fall under the spell of the rich, textured, and passionate score.
Almost operatic in nature, Phantom includes little straight dialogue, so listeners of the cast recording get close to the full experience. All one has to do is to close their eyes and imagine masked revelers on a grand staircase during “Masquerade,” a smoky underground layer dotted with candles during “Music of the Night,” and a falling chandelier at the end of “All I Ask of You (Reprise).” The score also reaches out to audiences who may not even consider themselves musical theater fans by incorporating (quite appropriately) elements of opera, as well as electronic flourishes that were not at all out of step with the rest of the late 80s.
“There’s been a real schism between the pop and opera worlds, and this kind of theater really does try to bring them closer,” fellow composer William Bolcolm told The New York Times of The Phantom of the Opera in 1988.
From the bombastic guitar riffs in the title song to the dissonance of the music the Phantom composes for his “modern” opera, Phantom distances itself from the golden age of musicals, as ruled over by Rodgers and Hammerstein , and even from some of the more adventurous, experimental shows of the 70s and 80s. Yet even as it challenged audiences, it also delivered softer, more sweeping moments in “Think of Me,” “All I Ask of You,” and “The Music of the Night.” The latter two songs charted in the UK, a rare achievement for the genre, and have been covered countless times. If it seemed that every home had a copy of the two-disc CD release near their stereo, that’s because a record-breaking number of them did.
The show has connected with audiences on a global scale. Dozens of productions have been mounted in almost every corner of the world, across six continents. In 2004, a long-awaited feature film adaptation was released, starring Gerald Butler, Emmy Rossum, and Patrick Wilson in the lead roles of the Phantom, Christine, and Raoul. After ruminating on it for years, Lloyd Webber finally embarked upon a continuation of the story, the musical Love Never Dies , which premiered in London in 2010 and caught up with the characters 10 years after the events of Phantom – and in much different circumstances. A year later, the Royal Albert Hall hosted an epic 25th-anniversary performance starring Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, and Hadley Fraser. It was beamed to movie theaters all over and got a cast recording of its own.
In the meantime, the West End and Broadway productions continued filling up with enraptured theatergoers, as hundreds of other shows came and went around them without half of the fanfare. The London production ran until 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to an extended hiatus, after which a slightly scaled-down interpretation opened in 2021. In 2012, the New York production officially became the longest-running show in Broadway history, a title that had been previously held by another of Lloyd Webber’s creations, Cats . The show will draw its last curtain in February 2023, after an unheard of 35 years on the Great White Way. By the time the Phantom finally vacates Box 5 of the Majestic Theatre on 44th Street, the show will have been performed nearly 14,000 times there.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Lloyd Webber and The Phantom of the Opera have changed the trajectory of musical theater. The show’s crossover impact introduced millions of new fans to the art form, and more than a few musicals that came afterwards owe their sense of scale and spectacle to the international hit. And, even as the Broadway production winds down and the cast recording celebrates its 35th year in print, the show is still firmly in the cultural zeitgeist. Phantom enjoys a passionate TikTok following and has inspired a new package of remixes , featuring remixes by Japanese producer 2118 and legendary Spanish DJ Supermini reinterpreting classic tracks from the show.
The show ends on a note of finality, with the Phantom telling the audience, “It’s over now, the music of the night.” But it seems that there will be no such ending for The Phantom of the Opera , which has achieved immortality in musical history and in the hearts of its fans.
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The real life tragedy which inspired the phantom of the opera.
This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series
It has become one of the West End's longest-running musicals and is known around the world.
But The Phantom of the Opera, which opened in London 35 years ago today - on 9 October, 1986 - is more than just a fictional show.
The musical was inspired by a real-life tragedy that took place in a Paris theatre, leaving one person dead.
The incident happened at one of Paris' opera houses, Palais Garnier, in May 1986, during a performance of the opera Helle.
As the first act finished, a counterweight for a chandelier plunged through the ceiling onto the audience, injuring several people and killing one person.
The story inspired Gaston Leroux, a young journalist, who combined the story with rumours of a ghost wandering the opera house to create Phantom of the Opera.
His story about a disfigured man who lurks under the opera house, terrifying everyone inside it, was first published as a serial in Le Gaulois from 23 September 1909 to 8 January 1910, then was released in volume form in late March 1910 by Pierre Lafitte.
In 1922 Leroux gave a copy to the head of Universal Pictures while he was visiting Paris.
That led to the 1925 American silent horror film adaptation of the novel, directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney.
Leroux's original story went on to inspire plays, films and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that has proved to be a hit with generations.
According to the Phantom of the Opera website, Lloyd Webber's version has played to over 140 million people in 35 countries in 166 cities around the world with an estimated gross of $6 billion (£4.4 billion).
The show has played in 15 different languages: English, French, German, Japanese, Danish, Polish, Swedish, Castilian, Hungarian, Dutch, Korean, Portuguese, Mexican Spanish, Estonian and Russian.
Phantom of the Opera is the the second longest-running West End musical, after Les Misérables, and the third longest-running West End show overall after The Mousetrap.
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Across the pond, it is the longest running show in Broadway history, celebrating its 11,000th Broadway performance on 7 July 2014.
It has won more than 70 major theatre awards including three Olivier Awards, an Evening Standard Award, seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, seven Drama Desk Awards and five Outer Critic Circle Awards.
But despite being one of the longest-running musicals in the world, even Phantom couldn't hold out against the COVID crisis and in July 2020 was forced to close for the first time in decades .
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• ACT ONE •
At an auction of opera memorabilia at the Paris Opera House, an old man, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, bids for a strange musical box which seems to hold for him some special memory. The remnants of a chandelier are revealed and we are swept back to the time of Raoul’s youth, when the chandelier hung in splendour from the dome of the Opera House.
A new opera, Hannibal, is in rehearsal. Lefèvre, manager of the Opera House, arrives and explains to the company that he is retiring. He introduces the new managers, André and Firmin. André asks the prima donna, Carlotta, to sing, but a backdrop falls suddenly from the flies, almost killing her. There are murmurs among the company that it must have been the work of ‘the ghost’. Carlotta storms out, leaving the new production without a star. The new managers learn that there have been too many accidents. Madame Giry, the ballet mistress, hands the managers a note from ‘the opera ghost’ demanding a salary and a free box at the opera. Meg, Madame Giry’s daughter, suggests to André and Firmin that her friend and fellow dancer Christine Daaé could take Carlotta’s place. Christine has been taking singing lessons, but is unable (or unwilling) to say from whom. The managers grant her an audition.
Audition and performance merge and, from the managers’ box, the young Raoul, patron of the Opera House, voices his enthusiasm for the new star. After the Gala, Meg asks Christine about her mysterious teacher, but Christine can only tell Meg that he is the Angel of Music whom her late father had always promised would one day visit her. Christine’s performance is met with unanimous approval and Raoul goes backstage to congratulate her. The meeting becomes a reunion, both realising that they used to play together as children. As soon as Christine is alone, a figure appears behind the mirror. It is The Phantom, the teacher whom she has never seen – her Angel of Music. The Phantom draws Christine into the dark beyond the mirror and, when Raoul returns, the room is empty. Christine is led beneath the Opera House. They cross a lake and arrive at The Phantom’s subterranean lair. The Phantom explains that he is a composer and she has been his inspiration. He is teaching her so that she can sing his music.
Christine falls into a trance, waking the following morning to the sound of the music box. Consumed with curiosity, Christine succeeds in uncovering The Phantom’s face. His anger dissolves into self-pity and Christine feels herself almost reciprocating his affection. The Phantom agrees to return her to the outside world. Backstage at the Opera, Buquet, the flyman, catches sight of the two re-emerging from below. Madame Giry cautions him to hold his tongue.
Meanwhile the Opera has been thrown into confusion by Christine’s disappearance. Everyone has received notes from The Phantom. The Phantom demands that Carlotta be replaced by Christine as leading lady in a forthcoming revival of the opera Il Muto. News arrives of Christine’s return, but the managers assure Carlotta that no heed will be paid to The Phantom’s demands.
The Phantom’s voice is heard threatening ‘a disaster beyond imagination’. Il Muto is performed with Christine cast in a silent role. The Phantom’s voice reiterates his demands and, when these are ignored, he causes Carlotta to emit the croak of a frog instead of singing. As the indisposed prima donna is led away, André replaces her with Christine. But The Phantom is still much in evidence as the body of Buquet drops from the flies with a rope around his neck.
In the ensuing pandemonium Christine flees with Raoul to the safety of the roof of the Opera House. They agree to leave together that night. The Phantom emerges from his hiding place, where he has heard everything, and vows vengeance. As Christine and the cast take their bows, the chandelier crashes down from the ceiling.
• ACT TWO •
At a masked ball, all celebrate the New Year and the disappearance of The Phantom. Raoul and Christine have secretly become engaged. At the height of the festivities a strange figure descends the staircase. The Phantom has returned. He flings to André the score of his new opera, Don Juan Triumphant, commanding that it be performed. Backstage, Raoul interrogates Madame Giry about the identity of The Phantom. He is an escaped fairground freak – a physical monstrosity with a brilliant mind. Presumed dead, he in fact lives still, somewhere in the Opera House.
Raoul hits upon a scheme to ensnare The Phantom using his own opera as bait. If Christine agrees to sing the principal role, The Phantom is sure to attend. With the doors locked and guarded he will be unable to escape. Christine unhappily agrees to co-operate. The singers have immense difficulty learning the dissonant score, but their task is mysteriously facilitated when the piano magically takes over and the singers, mesmerised, begin to perform flawlessly.
Christine visits her father’s grave. She knows that if she can free herself from his memory she will no longer be in thrall to The Phantom. The Phantom appears to her in the graveyard. His hypnotic influence, however, is broken when Raoul arrives on the scene. Enraged, The Phantom declares war on them both.
In the final scene of the opera, Christine becomes aware that The Phantom has taken the place of Piangi in the role of Don Juan. As her duet finishes, she tears the mask from his face. Surrounded by police, The Phantom is nevertheless able to escape, dragging Christine with him. The garrotted body of Piangi is revealed.
Madame Giry agrees to lead Raoul to The Phantom’s lair. An angry mob follows. In the underground lair, Christine confronts The Phantom: his true disfigurement lies not in his face but in his soul. Raoul appears and The Phantom traps him. The Phantom offers Christine a bizarre choice: she must either stay with him forever or see Raoul killed. The mob drawing ever closer, The Phantom relents and orders them both to go. The mob descends towards the lair, but all that remains of The Phantom is a white mask.
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"Phantom of the Opera is one of the reasons I’m a singer. It was like lightning from the sky." Tarja Turunen: My Life In 10 Songs
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For metal’s most distinctive soprano, Tarja Turunen , the past two decades have been nothing short of transformative. After the excruciatingly public split from Nightwish , which left Tarja blindsided and with some deep emotional scars, the singer has spent years picking herself up, dusting herself off and throwing herself back into a scene that at times seemed determined to reject her.
With self-deprecating humour and warmth, the effervescent singer picks songs from her discography that seem to represent her ability to overcome hard times, from taking her first tentative steps as a solo artist to using Christmas music to deal with bereavement and reclaiming the label ‘diva’.
Nightwish - Walking In The Air (Oceanborn, 1998)
"I’m a Christmas woman. You probably see me doing a lot of Christmas stuff in my career every year. This song has nothing to do with metal whatsoever, but Nightwish recorded it for our second album, and it’s been in my setlist for Christmas concerts for a long time. I’ve done it with symphonic orchestras, different lineups, oh my God, so many ways of doing the same song [laughs]!
But it’s a beautiful song, I love The Snowman cartoon. And now my daughter, she’s 11, she’s seen it now too. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity, on a TV program in Finland, to perform the song with Aled Jones, the original boy soprano. For me, it was like a feeling of closure. I needed to tell him the story and he was happy to hear it. So it was a very emotional performance for me. It was very special."
Nightwish - Phantom Of The Opera (Century Child, 2000)
"Phantom of the Opera is one of the reasons I’m a singer today. It was like lightning from the sky. It made me look for a vocal coach and start using my voice in a healthier way. I started taking lessons when I was fifteen which is very early when it comes to lyrical singing – it deals with the whole body, so you need to be very careful.
I was a nervous wreck when I went into the studio to record it with Nightwish, because even though I was studying lyrical singing in university, my voice was not in the place it is now. But it was a great challenge and I love challenges. This song is still a challenge for me, every time. Every night I have this song in my set, I feel a little more focused on how to deliver it well."
Tarja - Oasis (My Winter Storm, 2007)
"The first song I ever composed myself was Oasis . I really wanted to have a song that I’d written on my own for my first album. I felt like I needed that, somehow. We were running out of time so the label tried to find me songwriters because they didn’t trust I was capable of doing the job on my own yet – which I wasn’t, I agree – but this song was always there.
In all the turmoil that was going on in my life at that moment, it felt like everybody wanted a piece of me, everybody was fighting over who got to release my first solo album. It was crazy. I knew I wanted to continue doing music, but with who? This song was about finding that inner peace within, my own little oasis. I was ready to start my journey alone."
Tarja - I Walk Alone (My Winter Storm, 2007)
"Universal sent me more than 500 demos of songs, and I remember I was driving all over Finland at that time. I love driving, it’s the moment when I can listen to music, I can chill and disconnect. So I was driving and listening to all of these demos, and you can’t imagine what kind of songs were on there. Completely classical, pop, electronic, metal… the whole range of songs that composers had sent to me. And then comes I Walk Alone , and I had to play it on repeat. I was like, this is the song for me.
I had to make it my own, to find my own meaning in it, so I changed the lyrics a little bit. It was about the connection with my fans, the ones that were always there, supporting me – they were the winter storm behind me, kicking my butt, making me continue to do what I love the most. In a way, it’s the opposite meaning – I never walk alone. I felt very strongly about this song and the label agreed with me, and it was the first single from My Winter Storm ."
Tarja - Until My Last Breath (What Lies Beneath, 2010)
"This is an important song, it’s in almost all of my live setlists. At the time, I was writing about the passing of Michael Jackson. We humans tend to forget things very easily, we don’t have a long memory. We think of somebody as amazing and then after that person is gone, we dig up all the dirt and want to only see the bad things.
That’s how it was with Michael Jackson’s passing. An incredible artist, the King of Pop, with insanely beautiful songs that are still fresh today – everything got trashed and his talent wasn’t the focus anymore. I became very sad about that and said 'okay, I need to believe in myself and what I do, no matter what the public pressure is;. This song made me understand that."
Tarja - Ave Maria (Ave Maria - En Plein Air, 2015)
"I’d wanted to release a proper classical album for a long time, since I hadn’t had the opportunity to do it earlier. It was also a matter of not having the courage; I wasn’t ready for a classical album, but then I got encouraged by some important Finnish classical musicians. They said, 'do it for your own sake'.
This song was born in about two minutes, just from me fooling around on the grand piano in my living room in Buenos Aires. I said to myself one day, 'Why not? I can write an Ave Maria '. I was just thinking of the Latin text of Ave Maria , and there it was. I’m not even a religious person, I’m more of a spiritual person, but having had such a long background in classical music, it felt like the right thing to do. I’m really happy with that album. I hope I can find the time to do a follow-up one day."
Tarja - Diva (The Shadow Self, 2016)
"I spent so many years feeling so disappointed, like I had lost all of my trust in humanity, after my departure from Nightwish, because it was so nasty. In that letter from the band, they described me as a 'diva' in a very negative light. For me, having had a classical background, the word meant just the opposite, but I was really hurt by that. So, I needed to write a song where I use it in a very ironic way.
Diva was actually written for [2013's] Colours In The Dark , but I wasn’t ready to face it yet. By the time The Shadow Self came out, my self-confidence had grown. I had a career, I felt the whole scene accepted me. So I said 'yeah, let’s do it. I’m happy to be the diva'."
Tarja - Together (From Spirits & Ghosts [Score For A Dark Christmas], 2017)
"I kind of don’t enjoy Christmas music as it is – put out as some commercial thing in the supermarket, very happy, very American. A lot of people don’t enjoy Christmas because it’s a time of year when they are reminded of the ones that are no longer with us. After my mother passed in 2003, I said to myself, 'there’s no Christmas anymore for me'.
So From Spirits & Ghosts , my second Christmas album, is a darker album where I try to reach out to the people that are lonely during Christmas. I did the album for them, those lonely souls, and I wrote them the song Together . Some of us enjoy our solitude, but we all need each other in one way or another. Dark Christmas (released last year) is the follow-up, and it’s even darker."
Tarja - Shadow Play (In The Raw, 2019)
"I wrote Shadow Play during the therapy sessions after my stroke. When I finished writing these lyrics, it kind of emptied me completely, but at the same time I was very proud of myself because I had made it; I had finished something that was so hard, mentally. After my stroke, which was such a surprise, I thought, 'why me?' I was full of questions.
So I wrote Shadow Play and said to myself, 'this is it: this is who I am today, and it’s okay. I’m alive, and I’m okay.' It was like a bad dream, but thankfully it didn’t leave me with any long-term effects. I can’t write music without going deep. I think that’s what makes my audience connect with me or feel for me; it’s pure open-heartedness. It’s my weakness, in a way, but it’s also my strength, at the same time."
Outlanders - Closer To The Sky (Outlanders, 2023)
"This is one of the first songs I wrote alone at home since Covid, thinking about this weird situation we were in, not knowing what would be there in the future, how long it would take to get over this - this unknown, unfamiliar situation.
I wrote C loser To The Sky for guitarist Trevor Rabin. I’ve been a fan of Trevor for a long time, since his years in Yes, and when I got to talk to him on the phone, he really understood the concept of Outlanders and we had a really sweet chat. And since he recorded the song, I realised that Outlanders has a life, and I know I can do it. It was a beautiful debut album and I already have ideas for a follow-up."
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Local News | ‘Phantom of the Opera’ screens at Saratoga…
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Local news | more scattered showers in store for bay area on wednesday, with near-freezing temperatures coming overnight, local news | ‘phantom of the opera’ screens at saratoga church, organist to play silent film’s score.
‘Phantom of the Opera’
Organist Walt Strony will provide live music for a Jan. 20 screening of the 1925 classic film “Phantom of the Opera,” set for 7 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 14103 Saratoga Ave. Strony’s accompaniment includes parts of the silent film’s original score, played on the church’s Casavant organ.
A reception with Strony follows the screening. Tickets are $20 at phantom-live.eventbrite.com .
CERT Academy registration
Residents can learn the skills needed to care help themselves and their community through a crisis by becoming a Community Emergency Response Team member. The next training academy hosted by Santa Clara County Fire starts on Jan. 30. Register at https://www.sccfd.org/education-and-preparedness-overview/emergency-preparedness/cert .
Grand jury service
Santa Clara County is taking applications from residents who want to serve on the Civil Grand Jury. As an independent arm of the judicial branch, the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury investigates the operations of the various officers, departments and agencies of local government and is responsible for acting as a civil watchdog agency, reviewing resident complaints and filing accusations. Applications are due March 29, 2024, for a one-year term commencing July 1, 2024. For more information, visit https://www.scscourt.org/court_divisions/civil/cgj/grand_jury.shtml.
Unraveling nature’s mysteries
The game is afoot—or a-paw or a-claw—when the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority hosts a virtual “Who Done It?” on Jan. 19, 10-11 a.m. Participants will be asked to decipher clues found in nature to unravel the mysteries presented.
Register at Eventbrite.com to receive the Zoom sign-up link. The presentation will also be recorded and posted later on the Open Space Authority’s YouTube channel.
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Andrew Lloyd Webber called in priest over troublesome poltergeist
Posted: January 2, 2024 | Last updated: January 2, 2024
He is probably best known for his hit musical The Phantom of the Opera, but Andrew Lloyd Webber has disclosed that, in real life, he shared his home with the poltergeist of Eaton Square.
The composer has told The Telegraph that a mischievous spirit took up residence in his home in Belgravia, central London, where it would delight in making piles of paper that he would find in unexpected places. He eventually called on the services of a priest to persuade it to leave the 19th-century property.
Lord Lloyd Webber mentioned the poltergeist when asked by The Telegraph whether any of the theatres he owns are haunted .
He said he had never seen a ghost, but added: “I did have a house in Eaton Square which had a poltergeist.
“It would do things like take theatre scripts and put them in a neat pile in some obscure room. In the end we had to get a priest to come and bless it, and it left.”
‘Felt a presence on the stage’
If Lord Lloyd Webber’s house was indeed visited by a poltergeist , he appears to have been lucky in avoiding the more malevolent behaviour often attributed to them.
The name translates as “noisy spirit”, and legend has it that they can throw objects across rooms, bite people and even start fires.
Families living in Borley Rectory, Essex, known as Britain’s most haunted house until it was demolished in 1944, reported stones and bottles being thrown by a poltergeist, while in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada, a poltergeist was said to have stabbed a woman in the back in 1879.
Although Lord Lloyd Webber has never seen a ghost, many other people working in theatres claim that they have, including Sir Patrick Stewart, who said he saw a figure when he was onstage with Sir Ian McKellen during their 2009 performance of Waiting for Godot at the Haymarket Theatre, central London.
Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who has worked with Lord Lloyd Webber on some of his biggest hits, told The Telegraph that on the opening night of Miss Saigon in 1989 he felt a presence on the stage before the show at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which the theatre manager attributed to the theatre’s resident spook, the Man in Grey .
Famous former residents
Three years earlier, The Phantom of the Opera opened at His Majesty’s Theatre, going on to become the West End’s second longest-running musical. The phantom of the title is not a ghost, but a composer with a disfigured face who hides himself from society beneath the Paris Opera House.
If Lord Lloyd Webber had encountered a ghost in his house, there are plenty of famous former residents of Eaton Square it could have been.
Neville Chamberlain , the former prime minister, lived at No 37, and his foreign secretary Lord Halifax lived at No 86. The actress Vivien Leigh lived a few doors down at No 54, while the actor Rex Harrison lived at No 75.
Another former prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, once lived at No 93, while Diana Mitford, the socialite who married Sir Oswald Mosley, was at No 2.
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