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The Indescribable Soprano ? Florence Foster Jenkins (1868 - 1944 )

   Recently, I borrowed a CD from my local library of  recordings by the once famous , or notorious  American soprano ? Forence Foster Jenkins , who my have been the worst  snger in the history of the vocal art .  This eccentric  lady , who managed to  make a  successful career despite her apprent lack of  any  vocal  talent or musicianship ,  is one of the most curious stories in  the history of  classical music . 

    She was born  the daughter of  a wealthy banker  in Wilkes Barre Pennsylvnia in 1868  and was  a  total amateur  . She studied voice in Europe  despite a lack of ny talent  , and when her father died  in 1909 she inherited enough to  begin making  a career of sorts on her own .

    Jenkins' singing is so awful it's fun !   She could not sing on pitch to sve her life , her rhythmic  accurcy was non-existent  and she sounded  like a  wounded  duck !    Her pronunciation of  foreign languages was comically bad .  But audiences loved her  demented  caterwauling !   In a sense,  she may have been  the first performance artist  , active long before the term was invented .

    She would  perform in  elaborate and ridiculous-looking  costumes of her own design , including one  with angel's wings , changing  at least twice  during recitals .  She was able to book  even prestigious Carnegie hall for herself  , nd her  recitals  were egerly  awaited and actually sold out !   Her accompanist  was the  grotesquely-named Cosmo Mc Moon ,  who was able to adjust to her  rhythmic  and musical ineptitude  and even wrote some  songs for her .  She tried to tackle some very difficult operatic arias with  hilariously disastrous  results , such as the  fiendishly difficult  revenge aria of  the Queen of the Night in Mozart's  famous opera The Magic Flute . 

    On the  recording, you can hear how she is totally unable to reach  the  dizzying high notes of this aria and is off  by  a mile !   The ironic thing is that she always considered herself to be a serious  singer  !   The  CD is  on the R.C..A. label . If  you're unable to  find it. check youtube, which has  wealth of  performances by famous classical musicians  .  It's a  blast !

Posted: Sep 16 2013, 10:17 PM by the horn | with no comments
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