The acclaimed opera star makes her cinematic debut portraying ‘the worst singer of all time’.
Shooting for the The Florence Foster Jenkins Story starts in January
American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato has won numerous awards for her albums; graced the stage of the Metropolitan Opera New York in productions broadcast live to opera fans worldwide; curated and performed in a concert series at Carnegie Hall, and held more than 25 million viewers enthralled as she sang the US national anthem at the final game of the Major League Baseball World Series.
In all my experience, I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered a singer who has lived more radically for the sheer act of singing, and the uninhibited sharing of that singing, than the legendary Florence Foster Jenkins. Portraying her on film, my intention will not be to create any kind of a caricature, but instead to enter fully into her zany, passionate world where singing was paramount and the audacity of her desire to sing “like a bird” ruled all.
– Joyce DiDonato
Now, in a bold move, this bona fide opera superstar is set to make her feature film debut, portraying the woman generally considered to be the worst singer of all time. Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) was a New York heiress and self-styled operatic diva of famously dubious talent, yet she has become a cult figure whose recordings still outsell many contemporary singers’.
From the 1920s onwards, Jenkins’ reputation preceded her; her public recitals became a curiosity and a hot ticket in high society, with singing so awful it became compelling. She unwittingly became a novelty act while attempting serious performances of repertoire including Mozart’s Queen of the Night aria. Her final, sold-out concert, in 1944 at Carnegie Hall, remains one of the unforgettable nights in the history of this prestigious venue.
For the first time, a documentary feature film will examine this enigma, the woman behind this aural assault on the public. EMMY-nominated director Ralf Pleger (WAGNERWAHN / The Wagner Files) sees the self-appointed prima donna as a rebellious and eccentric personality and explores the phenomenon of her success. Fictional scenes will immerse viewers in Florence Foster Jenkins’ fantastical world and reconstruct her tableaux vivants, a popular form of entertainment during her lifetime, in which Madame Jenkins famously appeared in the most extravagant gowns and costumes.
Taking on the challenge of portraying the flamboyant ‘queen of dissonance’ is today’s undisputed queen of coloratura, American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. The casting of a truly great opera singer as the notoriously woeful Florence Foster Jenkins is a unique aspect of the film that juxtaposes two musical worlds: the reality and the delusion. As Tony Award-winning singer and actress Judy Kaye said of her portrayal of Jenkins in a Broadway show: “It’s really difficult to sing that bad that good.”
The documentary components of the film feature interviews with renowned experts in the field, as well as testimony from New Yorkers who saw Jenkins perform live. The Florence Foster Jenkins Story also reveals spectacular archival discoveries—private, previously unpublished photos as well as original audio recordings. These findings gradually expose the scandal and mystery that dogged her life.
Director Ralf Pleger says he is thrilled about this casting coup: “We are lucky that we have one of the best singers in the world to give an interpretation of that figure Florence Foster Jenkins. Isn’t that amazing? Joyce is not only one of the best singers in the world; she is a great artist who always, always thinks out of the box.”
Principal shooting for The Florence Foster Jenkins Story (90 min) begins in January. The film will be released in November 2016. Produced by the Berlin based company 3B-Produktion and distributed by Edition Salzgeber. Additional partners, broadcasters and film funds: Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, DFFF (Deutscher Filmförderfonds), ZDF/Arte, SRF, ORF, NRK, SVT, Galerie Kornfeld Berlin and Donna Leon. Enjoy a video preview of this not-to-be-missed production, and learn more about this exciting project via its fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.
If I could say one thing to Florence Foster Jenkins, I would just say, ‘you go, girl!’ -Joyce