Sunday, December 12, 2010

Florence Foster Jenkins - the Carnegie Hall Program!

A little sleuthing on the Internet can give us some of the most interesting things.

All I can say is - oh, to have been there.

Lady Florence (as she preferred to be called) in her younger years.
Us record collectors lovingly call her Flofojen.

Pictured below is what I believe to be the first commercial issue of the Florence Foster Jenkins recordings, a 10-inch LP containing only the Jenkins tracks.  It was later released on a 12-inch LP, deleting "Serenata mexicana" and including the "Jenny Williams and Thomas Burns" Faust recordings on the reverse.  There is also a two-45 rpm record set of the same material, which I own, but can't get my hands on at the moment.  She made her recordings at Melotone Studios in New York City, which was a label that made "vanity" recordings.  In other words, you paid, you recorded, you got boxes of records.  At least one of these (the Magic Flute aria) was sold commercially (and actually reviewed in record magazines!), but these were mostly made available to friends and admirers.

And even though I have shown it elsewhere, here is a copy of one of the Melotone 78 rpm records.  I am proud to own a complete set of the known extant recordings, and this one is by far the most scarce.

This DVD pictured on the left, produced by Donald Collup, is a highly recommended documentary of the life and times of Lady Florence.  It is beautifully and sensitively done, and gives the viewer a great deal of insight as to what drove her to perform.  The old BMG  (formerly RCA Victor) CD "The Glory (???) Of the Human Voice" is the standard old collection of Flofojen chestnuts, it is readily available, but does not include the "Valse caressante" featured on the Lennick "Murder on the High C's" on Naxos, or Gregor Benko's "The Muse Surmounted" on Homophone/VAI.  "The Muse Surmounted" is reviewed in depth on this blog, and that post may be read here.  I am probably not exaggerating when I say that my sense of humor, and my love of music, has been influenced by Florence Foster Jenkins, as I had a vinyl LP copy of her Victor album since my teenage years, and modeled a stage persona from my college years, "Tessie Tura", after her.  It's hard to deny that through the cacophony, the lack of rhythm, and frankly the lack of much else that marks even mediocre singing ability, that there was no lack of joy in her singing,


  1. This is a great post! I first heard of Mrs. Jenkins when she was mentioned in the liner notes of "Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits" by the inimitable Elva Miller. It was a long time before I got to hear Mrs. Jenkins (entertaining to say the least, but I have to say I like Elva better).
    I ran across this post when looking for some info on a record I found in the trash at the library the other's a Melotone 78 of the Magic Flute aria. SCORE! I have a small portable victrola that I need to dig out; I hope the record fits on it.
    Can you give me any idea of how rare or common this disc is?