22 November 2012

Florence Foster Jenkins & Friends: Murder on the High Cs

Easy CD-DA | FLAC tracks | Covers | 175 Mb
Date CD: September 23, 2003 | Naxos | 60:10

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The review of mr. Pollock, who rated this product only one star, got me thinking. Yes, I like a good laugh as much as the rest of you and yes: Mrs. Florence Foster Jenkins's musical offerings are so g*dawful bad it is almost unbelievably funny but....
But there is also the fact that the gormless creature herself apparently sincerely and steadfastly believed she possessed loads of talent! She really was convinced that she was Maria Malibran, Giuditta Pasta, Jenny Lind and Dame Nellie Melba, all rolled into one.
It seems she truly and honestly never noticed or even suspected how cruelly her leg was being pulled by her "adoring audience". Tickets to her few annual "recitals" in the foyer of the New York Ritz hotel were highly sought after.

This fact makes always makes me a bit uncomfortable when listening to Mrs. FFJ. On the one hand I can't help wincing and laughing to myself at her preposterous attempts at "diva-dom" and yet there's also that ever so slight frisson of guilty embarrassment of laughing at someone behind his, or in this case her, back. Which mostly isn't actually all that funny, but rather cheap and easy.

Someone close Mrs. FFJ ought off course to have had the balls to tell her to stop making such a silly spectacle exhibition of herself. No one ever did and she happily lived on in her self-created and self-funded (thanks to inheriting a whopping great fortune) charade. It must have been very drôle to hear her and to watch her, for during her recitals this portly and middle-aged lady dressed up in the most incredibly stereotypical and over-the-top Opera costumes. The audience was treated to a parade of fantastic, beached whale-like Carmens, Brunhildes, Queens-of-the-Night-from-the-Magic-Flute, Greek godesses, Vestal virgins, Warrior Queens and so on, complete with sceptres, crowns, tiaras, spears, shields and swords and horned helmets.

Still, I do wonder: didn't anyone in the audience find it the slightest bit painful or embarrassing, to make fun of the silly old moo?
On the other hand, she was fully compos mentis and willingly chose to make such a caricature of herself for more than 30 years. She payed it all out of her own money and she did nobody any harm with it. Indeed, the proceeds of her appearances were generously donated to various good causes, along with hefty amounts of her own money!!
In the end one has to admit that mrs. FFJ did what few of us can do or dare to do: she lived out her dream of being a diva. Good for her!

Mrs. FFJ reminds me of those characters the great Margaret Dumont used to play in those 30s and 40s Marx Brothers films, you know the type: the rather stout, benign, rich, none too bright, hoity-toity dowager and socialite, who falls victim to the most relentless piss-taking by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Sleepy, Dopey, Doc and Bashful.

So enjoy this but spare a thought for Mrs. FFJ. People applauded her in her face, but laughed at her behind her back. Not very nice that. I deducted one star for that. 

S. A. Kuipers (Groningen, Netherlands - Amazon) 


Mozart - Queen of the Night Aria 
McMoon - Serenata Mexicana
Liadov - Musical Snuff Box
Like a Bird
Delibes - Lakme: Bell Song
David, Felicien - La perle du Bresil: Charmant oiseau, "Couplets du Mysoli"
Strauss II - Die Fledermaus: Adele's Laughing Song
Bach - Biassy (Prelude XVI) 
McMoon - Valse Caressante
Diack - Little Jack Horner
Malotte - Sing a Song of Sixpence
Geehl/Strauss II - An der schonen, blauen Donau
Brent - The Little Old State of Texa
Romberg - Up in Central Park: The Fireman's Bride
Styne, Jule - The Song's Gotta Come from the Heart
Barnett - A Real Piano Player
Fain - Thrill of a Romance: Please Don't Say No


Esme said...

This is a truly dreadful CD - just as advertised.
Highly recommended if you have a sense of humour.
Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

Yes Esme, I agree! Only for persons with high sense of humor. Otherwise, is terrific and horrible. Thanks Tsoutatis, Federico