The Adventures of Florian is an orchestral adaptation and modern retelling of the Henry Beston fairy tale of the same name, from his larger work, “The Firelight Fairy Book.” In this retelling, Prince Florizel marries Florian himself, presenting as a boy, rather than revealing Florian as Isabella.
Simply changing a few lines to make the prince gay, and having the Enchanter change Florian’s physical body into that of a boy, not only allowed for the representation of LGBT characters, but also transformed the story into a wonderful vehicle to demonstrate and teach the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.
In my first reading of the story I couldn’t help but be struck by the parallels between the events in the lives of the characters and those of so many LGBT people: being an overachiever, being sent away by their parents, (Prince Florizel), seeing themself as a different gender than the body they were born into (Florian), and, for both characters, the eventual coming out and revealing of their truth.
The piece is scored for full orchestra in order to better convey the epic nature of the story. The characters are each represented by a different instrument:
• Isabella is initially represented by the oboe until her transition into Florian, at which point, Florian is represented by the soprano sax
• The Enchanter or Black Knight is heard as a bass trombone
• The english horn and shrieking clarinets sound as the old witch and her daughter respectively.
• Florizel is represented by the trumpet
Additionally, the themes of Florian and Florizel are composed in such a way that each theme is complete and can stand on its own, but played together, create a nice duet. This reflects a model of a healthy relationship: each person is complete on their own, but when brought together, create something new that neither could manifest individually.
I incorporated a small tribute to Leonard Bernstein in the work as well. His Young People’s Concerts were one of my big inspirations in following a musical path. I was only 8 when the last one aired, but I have seen all of them, and still love them. It was through those concerts that I understood that music was more than just something nice to listen to. It was a way to educate, communicate, and transmit understanding.
The tribute is a parody of part of the piece “I Feel Pretty” from the musical “West Side Story” It represents the daughter of the witch: she’s cruel and ugly but sees herself as pretty. I know that in his time, the idea of seeing LGBT characters in a children’s story would have been unimaginable. I would like to think that, being the great educator and humanitarian that he was, he would approve of the goals of the piece and seeing LGBT characters represented in a story.
The music is paired with stunning illustrations created by artist Appoline Etienne. In working with her, I simply gave her computer generated sound files of the score, paired with the text of the story. I wanted her to have full creative freedom, and that was a wonderful decision.
Her illustrations really add so much depth to the story. An image at the end added an entire subtext; the idea of redemption. In the story, the old witch sets her dogs on Florizel and Florian. They are saved by The Enchanter when he rids them of the old witch and her daughter. The image at the end shows Florian and Florizel with the dogs, now as pets.
This is a beautiful reflection of what we see played out in society. There are those people, who, under the control of a government or religion that promotes homophobia and transphobia, are taught to hate LGBT people. However; when freed of that control, they may eventually become allies with the communities they were once taught to despise.
My goal with this work is that it not only be enjoyable, but also promote understanding and acceptance of LGBT people, and that LGBT youth see themselves represented in stories and fairy tales. — Michael J. Evans
CONNECT with Michael J. Evans
© NAVONA RECORDS LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Navona Records offers listeners a fresh taste of today's leading innovators in orchestral, chamber, instrumental, and experimental music as well as prime pieces of classic repertoire. Our music is meticulously performed by the finest musicians and handpicked to ensure the most rewarding listening experience.
223 Lafayette Road
North Hampton NH 03862
press (at) parmarecordings.com
603.758.1718 x 151