The achievement of Florence Foster Jenkins, peerless soprano, has remained unsurpassed to this day; no one who hears her is ever the same.
There is so much that is marvelous about Florence Foster Jenkins — and there are already so many eloquent reactions — that it is a challenge to decide which particular aspect deserves special attention. Like countless admirers before me, I was changed forever once I had been introduced to her (on a long-playing record, which fortunately lives on as an easily obtainable CD). Of course I sorely regret having been born too late to know this incomparable singer in person, but the wonders of recording are such that we are left with a fairly accurate account, which is nothing less than stirring. I did go through a phase of envying anyone still awaiting the life-changing encounter, realizing that there is not anything quite like that first time, which can only be experienced once — until, that is, I came to recognize that no depth of familiarity with Florence Foster Jenkins would diminish the freshness of each new hearing. Every ensuing exposure somehow retains all the wonder and force of the first.
To the initiated, the name alone of Florence Foster Jenkins suffices
Yes, the mere mention of Florence Foster Jenkins to those in the know conjures up an awe-inspiring combination of timbre, rhythm, multilingual diction, and matchless intonation. This is why we return again and again to the precious few testaments of her unique qualities. Plays have been written to celebrate her, documentaries (Amazon.com promises it is re-stocking; apparently the demand is great) and written studies undertaken by amateurs and scholars alike in attempts to unlock Madame Jenkins’ secret, yet the quest seems to be never-ending with little satisfaction in sight. One has only to catch sight of a recital program to comprehend why this is so. The essence of such a delicate yet passionate spirit cannot be captured in analyses and remembrances. The sole thing to do is to listen and rejoice — and sympathize with her outstanding accompanist; even he could be overwhelmed by emotion at times.