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