Wednesday , August 4 2021

the true story of the soprano who sang out of tune

Released tonight on Arte, the film Florence Foster Jenkins tells the true story of this American singer with a sonorous voice, with a dazzling Meryl Streep.

It is well known that success is not just a story of talent. Charisma, perseverance and passion also mark brilliant careers, including that of Florence Foster Jenkins. Mocked by his vocal performances, the one that would have inspired the character of the Castafiore in Hergé remains a true figure in the New York music scene of the early twentieth century. A golden role for the talented Meryl Streep, whose acting palette works wonders in Stephen Frears ’film.

All for the music!

Narcissa Florence Foster, her maiden name, was born on July 19, 1868 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, into a wealthy family. A prodigious pianist from a young age, he turned to singing due to an arm injury. And whatever happens if your voice isn’t your best asset, you know what you want: to become a singer. Convinced of having her place among the best opera voices, she moved to New York in 1900 and took singing lessons. Too bad for the ears of others! Especially because Florence is already a little tough. Blamed for a mercury treatment taken to treat syphilis (a disease transmitted by her husband, Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins) that would have affected her auditory nerve.

Mockery of glory

Separated from her husband, she had a decisive encounter: that of St. Clair Bayfield, illegitimate descendant of an English count and failed actor. This charming charmer becomes his businessman and concubine. In 1909, on the death of her father, Florence inherited her fortune. Very involved in New York music circles, she decided to found her own club, the Verdi. In front of the initiates he invites, he ensures the show and multiplies the recitals, by Mozart or Brahms. Over the years, wrong notes, a catastrophic sense of rhythm, and poor pronunciation of foreign texts have made it a phenomenon. But the worldly diva hardly cares what to say. On the contrary, she loves to stage herself, always dressed in extravagant costumes, designed by her.

A golden story

Florence Foster Jenkins even ended up renting the prestigious Carnegie Hall in 1944 to give a final concert, which sold out. “Some will say I can’t sing, but no one will be able to say I didn’t sing”, he declared some time before he died, at the age of 76, of a heart attack. It is not surprising that, with such a destiny, the soprano was interested in cinema. Before Meryl Streep, Catherine Frot played a character based on the diva of Marguerite. His performance was received with a Caesar.

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