Archive for the ‘St.Florence’ Category

The Feast Of St. Florence

April 10, 2007

Pride, Groucho:67, 6006 YD

St.Florence Foster Jenkins was born on this date in 1868 CE, and was an American soprano who became famous for her complete lack of singing ability. She became tremendously popular in her unconventional way: her audiences apparently loved her for the amusement she provided rather than her musical ability. Jenkins was firmly convinced of her greatness, comparing herself favourably to the renowned sopranos Frieda Hempel and Luisa Tetrazzini, and dismissed the laughter which often came from the audience during her performances as coming from her rivals consumed by “professional jealousy”.

Jenkins restricted her rare performances to a few favorite venues, and her annual recital at the Ritz-Carlton ballroom in New York City. Attendance of her recitals was always limited to her loyal clubwomen and a select few others – she handled distribution of the coveted tickets herself.

After a taxicab crash in 1943 she found she could sing “a higher F than ever before.” Instead of a lawsuit against the taxicab company, she sent the driver a box of expensive cigars.

At the age of 76, Jenkins finally yielded to public demand and performed at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 1944. So anticipated was the performance that tickets for the event sold out weeks in advance. Jenkins died a month later.

There have been claims that Jenkins’s entire 32-year career was an elaborate joke on the public, which seems to be in contradiction with another claim that her death after the Carnegie Hall performance was a result of derision by her critics. However, there is little evidence for either claim. All indications are that Florence Foster Jenkins died with the same happy, confident sense of fulfillment that pervaded her entire artistic life.