Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera debuted on January 29, 1988, and closed on April 16, 2023, making it Broadway’s longest-running show. The musical was based on novelist Gaston Leroux’s story of the same name, which was first published as installments in the newspaper Le Gaulois, a daily newspaper published in Paris, France. The first installment appeared in the issue dated September 23, 1909, and the final installment was published in the January 8, 1910 edition.
The setting is the Palais Garnier and tells the story of soprano singer, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious masked musician (The Phantom) who lives in the subterranean underworld beneath the opera house.
The series was later released as a book titled Le Fantôme de l’Opéra in March 1910 by publisher, journalist, and editor Pierre Lafitte.
The following year, it was released in the United States by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. The New York Evening World named it “the most daring sensation novel of the century” and the New York Sun featured theater actors’ reactions to reading it. See a review of the book here. The first American edition of the novel was recently acquired through the donation of the Aramont Library and includes illustrations by André Castaigne.
Leroux’s Phantom was also serialized in the Evening World. The first chapter was published in the March 6, 1911 edition. To read the rest of the chapters, visit this link to a page of Chronicling America search results.
Now recognized as a lost film, Das Gespenst im Opernhaus, also known as Das Phantom der Oper, was a German silent film and is considered to be the first film adaption of the horror story. When another silent film adaptation of the story was released in 1925, the Seward Daily Gateway wrote: “This is the feature that has the record of fainting women in the audience and causing cold shivers in the backs of hardened critics, and we’re curious to see what it can do to us.” According to news reports, the film took two years to complete with a cast of 5,000 and starred Mary Philbin as Christine Daaé and Lon Chaney in the title role. It was later added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress Film Preservation Board in 1998.
Another film adaptation was released in 1943 and starred Susanna Foster, Nelson Eddy, and Claude Rains.
We invite you to search Chronicling America* for more news coverage of the story available online. Also check out the graphic novel adaptation, The Phantom of the Opera, and the “phan” newsletter, Poto: the Phantom of the Opera magazine in the Library’s Performing Arts collection. For more frightening films from the National Film Registry, check out this blog post.
*The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Be sure to follow Chronicling America on Twitter @ChronAmLOC and click here to become a subscriber to Headlines & Heroes.