Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Spring 2021


Reno, ZitaAnne. Setting the Stage: The Phantom of the Opera and Gothic Space. 2021. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright ZitaAnne Reno 2021.


First published from 1909 to 1910, Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of Erik, the titular deformed composer, and his dark love for a beautiful soprano. Similar to Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, another French story involving a deformed man in love with a beautiful woman, the setting is a crucial aspect of the novel. Examining the Palais Garnier, a labyrinthine building composed of staircases, passageways, trapdoors, and a subterranean lake, in conjunction with Notre Dame, a cathedral utilizing traditionally gothic architecture, reveals how the opera house functions as a gothic space. Rather than cast a more recognizably gothic setting, such as a monastery or a castle, the opera house presents a contemporary, accessible space defined by music and performance, desanctified yet still a place of worship and grandeur. Not only does the opera house serve as a literal stage for the inherent theatricality associated with the gothic, it also illustrates how the opera house functions as a modern Gothic cathedral.