Chanson de l’Ange by Paisley Swan Stewart

My guest blogger today is Paisley Swan Stewart, who talks about her life and why she retold the story of The Phantom of the Opera.

Chanson de l’Ange by Paisley Swan Stewart is a two volume epic retelling of the classic novel, the Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux. Inspired by the legend of The Opera Ghost in all its incarnations, the author weaves her own captivating tale while remaining faithful to key story elements.  Chanson de l’Ange creates bookends to the compelling saga of the Opera Ghost through an imaginative account of Christine Daae’s childhood companionship with the Angel of Music; while the final gripping chapters unveil her years beyond the opera house.

Book One: The Bleeding Rose opens with the tragic death of ten year old Christine Daae’s father; ushering in dramatic changes when she is left in the care of Madame Louise Giry, ballet mistress at the Paris Opera House.  Christine makes her new home in the opera’s conservatory, where she encounters a bohemian world of singers and dancers, and where she is visited by the unseen Angel of Music.  A bond of obsession and music is forged as Christine’s dark Angel methodically makes himself known. Through the illusory mirror of her dreams and desires, Christine will discover that not all angels have wings and not all devils are what they seem.

Scheduled for release in late 2011, Book Two~The Angel’s Song continues the Chanson de l’Ange retelling of Phantom of the Opera.

Book Two continues the Phantom’s  haunting odyssey into the very  essence of love, madness and  redemption.  As Christine takes center  stage in the Joan of Arc opera,  events swirl out of control  with dire consequences.  The Angel of Music   steps out from the shadows,  and mirrors become the portal into both  heaven and hell.  Now a young  woman, Christine is forced to make  choices that will dramatically alter the lives of those she loves.  She   must brave a future where all are thrust into an emotional and  operatic crescendo that will leave readers  breathless.

Chanson de l’Ange spans a fifty year journey fraught with music, high romance and madness.

Paisley Swan Stewart talks about her life and why she retold the story of The Phantom of the Opera:

My chosen pen name is Paisley Swan Stewart, but I am known as Swansong or ‘Swannie’ on website communities.

Now a happily married middle aged dreamer with a passion for art and beauty, music and theater, I am a woman of faith who celebrates the beauty of the world, while giving the glory to God for its creation.

Growing up as a lonely and introspective child, I found escape in the fantasy world of books and movies. I’ve always been creative; inspired by other artists and dreamers to sing, write, to draw, to perform and to believe in life’s ‘Deeper Magic.’

I have many interests and have attempted a lot of wild and crazy creative projects throughout my life. I studied classical voice in my youth and took first place in my state’s vocal competition. I was heavily involved with theater through my 20’s, where I played leads and supporting roles.

From a tender age I recognized man’s cruelty to his fellow man.  I hurt profoundly when children were ridiculed and bullied by other children because of their physical appearance.

Skinny and physically awkward, I did not fit in at school.  I was unhealthy, my eyes were too big behind thick glasses, and my complexion was too pale.  I rarely played with other children and chose to remain indoors while the neighborhood kids played kick ball and hide-n-seek, and thus I was nicknamed, “the mole.”

Shy and afraid to speak unless spoken to…a result of my step father’s constant haranguing me to “shut the hell up,” I became a quiet, lonely and introspective child.  Adults encouraged me to smile but I saw little to smile about and escaped into a world of fairy tales and fantasy.

My preteen years remain shrouded in family secrets and my step father’s escalating alcoholism.  His negative influence poisoned the entire family and I sought further escape through books, movies and music.

I gravitated to musicals and movies from the 30’s 40’s and 50’s,  often staying up late into the night watching old black and white horror films like Dracula, Frankenstein and King Kong.  I was sympathetic to these monsters, perhaps relating personally to their outcast stories.

The first time I saw the Lon Chaney silent version of Phantom of the Opera, I was about eleven.  I was frightened but equally fascinated by the masked Phantom, the movie’s man/monster, whose name was Erik.  The film’s tragic conclusion left me in tears, wishing that Christine had saved him from his fate.

Later I came across the colorful film adaptation starring Claude Rains, and I developed my first crush on a movie character.  His voice floating through the mirror enthralled me, and the melancholy melody he played on the violin was unforgettable. I thought him so handsome in the mysterious mask and was captivated by his efforts to win the trust of the young opera singer.

Finally in my mid-teens I discovered that I could sing and my love of performing was a further identification with the Phantom story.  For 10 years I studied classical voice, playing leading roles in musicals throughout high school and my early 20’s, where I finally received the attention and acceptance I craved.

In the early 90’s, my husband and I attended an LA based performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical, starring Michael Crawford.  I shall never forget the first commanding chords played on the dark organ as the gold and crystal chandelier rose above the gasping audience.  When the Phantom first appeared in the mirror, I forgot everything else around me; the audience, the auditorium, they all receded into the mist when he beckoned Christine from behind the glass.

Dressed in elegant tails and black opera cloak, he gracefully prowled across the stage, with the half-mask erotic and spell binding.  As an adult woman I immediately recognized the sexual pull of this Phantom, and I sat breathless as the tragic story came to life through Webber’s soaring music.  The performance was hypnotic and deeply sensual, but for me the drama resonated beyond its Victorian romance and beautiful score.

The Phantom is a man of superior intellect and artistic intelligence who because of a hideous facial deformity, is denied acceptance and love.  He is forced to remain on the outside looking in and can never know the warmth of human touch.  His soul is twisted, his psyche damaged through his self imposed isolation in the opera house cellars; where he exists as a shadow, a ghost…a haunted creature to be feared and obeyed.

But the Phantom is no monster.  He is only a man who desires to walk unmasked in the daylight, who craves someone to share his music, his heart and his body.  Underneath the skin, Erik longs to be loved just like the rest of us.

In December of 2004, as I sat enthralled by Joel Schumacher’s film version starring Gerard Butler, I was once again awash in the flickering light of an old black and white television, where a lonely little girl wept real tears for the Phantom of the Opera.

My own story, however, will have a happy ending because despite my emotional and physical scars, I found true love and a deep abiding faith in God.  As I mature, my own need for masks and disguises diminishes and I am learning to love myself for who I am… as alas, poor Erik never could.

Paisley Swan Stewart’s website:  http://www.chansondelange.com

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