Florence Foster Jenkins

In General, Music by John5 Comments

For some time I have been thinking of making a post about Florence Foster Jenkins.  She was an aspiring US opera singer born in 1886 who gave a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1944 and it was sold out within two hours.  People were scrambling to get seats and some were offering to buy tickets at high prices.  They came to see this woman who was so bad at singing that it was amusing.

I first heard of her and heard her singing when I was a young boy in Mount Gambier.  The local ABC radio station would sometimes play a recordiing of one of the arias she sang.  I’ve decided it is now high time I made this post because I’ve read that in 2015 they plan to make a movie about her, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.  The movie will be titled :Florence”.

Meryl-Streep-690px

I am not going to tell you anymore about Madame Jenkins (she liked to be called that) as there is plenty written about her on the Internet.  However an article well worth reading is the one on the Carnegie Hall website here which gives a brief summary of her performance at their venue together with a copy of the programme.. There is also an interesting and enjoyable discussion about her on the NPR website here.  Better still, on the NPR website there is a Play icon and you can listen to the discussion with music samples and a few giggles.

You can best get an idea of her extraordinary singing and voice in the following tracks from a CD of her recordings made between 1937 -1951.  Think of the following as my little Christmas present to you (wrote I with a little smile).

Florence-CD-690-SDIM0203

Photo of my CD taken with Sigma LP2 Quattro.

The singing of Florence Foster Jenkins reminds me of some of the auditions we get to see on TV talent shows such as Australian or American Idol and Australia’s Got Telent or the British and American versions.  But I suppose the big difference is that Florence lived in the days before TV, and in more polite times when perhaps nobody liked to tell her the truth.

I’ll leave you with this thought from the NPR discussion:

I wish I were a moron, my God perhaps I am.

Comments

  1. Well John, this post is from way out there in left field!

    Unsurprisingly, I have never heard of her, so I look forward to sampling her vocals later today.

    At first I thought her ‘young’ photo looked familiar … until I read further to see it wasn’t “her” after all.

    Cheers, Ralph

    1. Author

      Ralph, your response to this post has given me good cheer. I was hoping you and other readers, if any, would not have heard of her. Once the film is made and released, I expect Florence will become much better known – especially if Meryl Streep wins another Oscar because of her portayal of the role. As for the choice of Hugh Grant to play Florence’s partner and manager, I just shake my head in amazement and wonder what they were thinking of. But perhaps he’ll prove me wrong.

      Regards,
      John

  2. You are “sick” … I may never forgive you for luring me into listening to Madam Junk-voice-box!!!

    I hope to heck that the Janitor at Carnegie Hall finally caught and killed that loud suffering tortured cat that was making that horrible ear-splitting cacophony (a harsh discordant mixture of sounds … so says Google … and I certainly agree wholeheartedly).

    And I thought that Meryl Streep was gunna be more like Mamma Mia, when it will test her language interpretation skills more that her portrayal of Lindy Chamberlain.

    Sadly, I have only just read the hyperlink’d articles … “the fine print” one might say. And it is so true, one should ALWAYS read the fine print BEFORE undertaking the mission.

    Urrrrrrgh, Ralph

    1. Author

      Hi Ralph,

      Thanks for your further comments. I’ve been having a read of some reviews of CDs with her recordings and in 2000 one gentleman wrote: “The staff of a classical section of a large CD store in New York City regularly puts on this recording about 15 minutes to closing. They inevitably get several “what the hell is that” questions, a sale or two, and clear out the rest of the patrons in short order – most of them shaking their heads in disbelief.”

      Florence only recorded nine songs, and all of them are on Murder on the High Cs.

      As for Meryl Streep, I loved her in Mamma Mia, and also in Julia and Julia where she played Julia Child with a straight face while doing her way of speaking to a tee. Best of all I thought she was brilliant in The Devil Wears Prada.

      Merry Christmas,
      John

      1. Hi John,

        I am glad you took my comments in the spirit of the traumatised state I was in at the time … still suffering some PTSD even now.

        No offence intended but when I let Fiona sample some of Madam’s errrr singing … she thought it must have been you singing an’ mucking about!??

        I have not seen those other two Meryl movies BUT given her marvellous language impersonation skills, I will not be listening to this upcoming project unless it has English sub-titles with the volume completely muted.

        Merry Christmas, Ralph

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