History, art, and mystery – the Garnier Opera House has all three, its mystery in no small part due to French author Gaston Leroux. The Garnier Opera House captivated his imagination back in the late 19th century. A neo-baroque masterpiece, the theatre was originally commissioned by Emperor Napolean III in 1861, but a swampy foundation led the way to rumours of a large fish-filled lake being underneath the beautiful theatre. That, and an unfortunate chandelier accident killing an audience member were just some of the events which led way to Leroux’s famous book, ‘‘The Phantom of the Opera.’’ It is the story of a brooding opera ghost who terrorizes the staff of the Opera House from his underground watery-lair, and takes a fancy to Christine Daaé, chorus girl turned lead opera singer, whom he eventually kidnaps.
‘‘The Opera ghost really existed…’’ claims Gaston Leroux in the prologue of his book. Could it be true? Where does fact meet fiction in this famous story of jealousy, betrayal and murder? There are quite a few mysterious events to behold when looking at the history of the Garnier Opera House. Do your students know that today’s Parisian firefighters go there to train, because there actually is a large underground water tank beneath it? Fire up their curiosity by learning more about this intriguing French landmark.
LESSON PLAN: A Ghost at an Opera House? – Comics and Stories
Introduce your students to some of the mysteries of the Garnier Opera House – be sure to include the ‘‘lake’’ underneath it and the chandelier incident as two of the most famous examples. Next, depending on their level of French, have them read part, or all of the prologue to Gaston Leroux’s ‘‘Phantom of the Opera.’’ Are they convinced that the opera ghost was real? After having a discussion, they can then create their own comics or short stories about the Opera ghost in the context of what they know so far. (on their own, in pairs, or in groups)
Content Objective: Students will be able to discuss their thoughts on the mysterious incidents of the Garnier Opera House in relation to the legend of the Opera ghost
Language Objective: Students will learn about the Garnier Opera House and read part or all of Gaston Leroux’s ‘‘Phantom of the Opera’’ prologue. They will identify the main idea of the prologue (the opera ghost being real) and discuss in groups or with the class what they think. Students will then design their own comic strip or short story in French based on the Opera ghost and later present what they’ve created
- PPT Presentation on the Garnier Opera House
- Prologue of ‘‘The Phantom of the Opera’’ by Gaston Leroux
- Writing/drawing paper
- Art supplies (markers and/or colored pencils and scissors)
- Activate students’ background knowledge by asking questions about what they know of the Garnier Opera House in Paris. Introduce some of the mysterious incidents that have occurred there, either through PPT, or YouTube videos on the topic. Next, have them read part or all of Gaston Leroux’s prologue to ‘‘The Phantom of the Opera’’ (specify your reading objective-ex. find main idea, answer questions etc.)
- As a whole group, lead a discussion/debate on the evidence that there was an Opera ghost. Are they convinced? Was there an Opera ghost, or is he the product of overactive imaginations?
- Inform students that they have a choice between writing a short story or drawing a comic on one of the adventures of the Opera ghost
- Instruct students to present their comic or short story to the class, or to other groups
The lesson can end there, or this can be a segue into reading Gaston Leroux’s iconic novel, or the animated adaptation by Christophe Gaultier.
Being able to recognize famous landmarks through pop-culture references is a great way to get your students excited about travelling! Ask your Prométour Tour Consultant to include the Garnier Opera House on your next visit to France!