Why are we not talking about the fact that there was a ballet adaptation of “The Phantom of the Opera” that was actually staged at the Palais Garnier?
"I think of Roland Petit whenever I catch sight of the Paris Opéra, because the first performance I ever attended in that building was one of his ballets. Appropriately enough, it was his take on Le fantôme de l’Opéra. This was well before Andrew Lloyd Webber got his hands on Gaston Leroux’s story and turned it into a cliché. Roland Petit’s version, with music by Marcel Landowski, was darker and spookier, with no trace of sentimentality, and the staging was extraordinary.
The story unfolds in twelve scenes, for which the set designer recreated parts of the building on stage – from the domed roof with its statues and the grand foyer with its staircases to the backstage areas (coulisses) and the underground lake (la cuve).
For the scene in which the chandelier crashes into the orchestra pit in the middle of a performance, the stage was recreated back to front. That is, the back of the real stage showed the reverse side of a huge curtain, with an audience dimly suggested beyond it and a chandelier visible near the ceiling. The dancers performed facing this curtain, with their backs to the real audience. As the chandelier started to fall, the curtain swung shut, so one heard only the crash as it landed and saw the pandemonium among the frightened dancers on stage as they tried to figure out what had just happened.
In another scene, the Fantôme vanishes into a mirror. The mirror on stage had been created with vertical strips of reflective mylar in a huge gilt frame. The Fantôme simply threw himself towards the frame and disappeared between the strips, which shimmered briefly, and then were still.
The Paris Opéra was the building in which Roland Petit trained as a young boy (he started ballet school there at the age of nine), and he must have known it at least as well as Gaston Leroux did. It is beautiful and creepy, full of grand public spaces and obscure backstage passages, gleaming gold statues and dusty disused corners, exciting and frightening and bewildering all at the same time. (…)”