Gaston Leroux's Le Fantôôme de l'Opééra (1909––10), as well as providing the model for some famous adaptations in other media, represents an important late stage in the development of a venerable French novelistic tradition: the soiréée àà l'Opééra. Notwithstanding his obvious lack of musical expertise (or perhaps because of it), Leroux's keen exploration of operatic reception deserves its place alongside more eminent contributors to that tradition such as Balzac, Dumas, and Flaubert. The richness of his portrayal of the institution's mythology and place in contemporary popular consciousness derives partly from his direct use of a large number of sources, which goes far beyond the conventions of the Gothic novel. These range from real and fictional operas to reportage concerning the famous fatal accident at the Opééra in 1896 and the rivalry between Christine Nilsson and Marie Miolan-Carvalho. The most significant of them, though, is the set of gramophone records buried underneath the Opééra in 1907, which was Leroux's inspiration and which emerges as the metaphorical key to interpreting the novel——if not the tradition as a whole.
- ©© 2009 by the Regents of the University of California