Audiobook Review: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Publisher: Harper Perennial (December 30, 1987)
Author Information: Website
Tiara’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Narrator: Ralph Cosham | Length: 7 hrs and 35 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Blackstone Audio (December 6, 2004) | Whispersync Ready: Yes
Continuing on my quest to read more speculative classics, I decided to finally heed the call of this book. Christine Daaé, ingénue of the Opéra Garnier, gives an unearthly performance one night, a performance that dazzles the audience and is witnessed by her childhood friend, Viscount Raoul de Chagny, who is just this emotional wreck because of love for the whole book while Christine kept it (mostly) together for both of them. Christine credits her talent to the Angel of Music and his guiding hand, but when Raoul begins to show intentions of courting Christine, the Angel of Music proves to be more sinister in nature. While Christine continues to garner critical success in her music career, her patron is clear her continued success will be obtained only through him.
This Angel is known by a spookier name among the opera house workers–“Opera Ghost.” (Okay, I know it’s not terribly original, but it was 1909.) With the workers, he’s known as a malevolent spirit, orchestrating tragedies much like an opera that only he controls. Some share a strange semi-symbiotic relationship with him. Some jokingly speak of him, and others are very careful what they say about him lest they kindle his wrath. He is a mystery that some just accept while others seek out answers and search for some explanation for the strange occurrences in the opera house that are often blamed on him.
Thanks to the plays, movies, and operas, I think that sometimes people forget this story started life as a novel–well, a serial actually. I’m guilty of this as well. I have been a long time fan of The Phantom of the Opera in its visual formats for many years, but I’d never read the novel until now, and my review might show my total bias as a fan.
Starting with the narration, I found Ralph Cosham’s reading to be a bit more bland than I’d like. There were so many passages where I felt he should’ve been more passionate, more animated. Everything was read in such a straightforward manner, and I may be biased after watching the movies and operas and just expected more from him based on my experiences. He wasn’t a bad narrator and I quite liked his accent, but his reading just did very little to make the story compelling for me. If I wasn’t already invested in this story because of other media, I’m not sure if I would’ve finished it. There were also some audio issues where sometimes he’d sound like he was in the bathroom reading this book or his voice would sound strangely dubbed. If considering the audiobook, I don’t know if I can highly recommend this reading. There are other narrators available.
As for the story, the atmospheric aspects such as the horrors that you can just perceive out the corner of your eyes, the psychological mind games, are here. The eerie ghost story effect is here intertwined with music and romance. The themes explored in this novel are still explored today, showing how books like this served as a foundation for the horror genre as we’ve come to know it. Being that this started life as a serial, you can kind of tell there was probably some padding just to get to whatever count he needed. Much like modern serials, there are segments that well-balanced, and there are some that feel either too flimsy or seem to be a bit rambling. The characters aren’t terribly rounded save for Christine and the Phantom and even they lack some substance. While this may not be the scariest thing anyone has read and some people treat this as a unrequited love story featuring a tortured soul rather than a Gothic horror, this story is one that proves to be enduring.