Quote of the Day: They can say I can’t sing, but they can’t say I didn’t.

They can say I can’t sing, but they can’t say I didn’t.

–Florence Foster Jenkins

We have begun preparations for Stephen Temperley’s Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins, which I adore. As a play, it’s nothing fancy, but it doesn’t need to be. When you are doing a biography and your subject is a ridiculous and rich tone-deaf (oh, sorry, amusia-suffering) amateur opera singer from the 1930s–40s who, through her sincere passion for music and performance, nourished a cult-following who fought tooth-and-nail for entry to her sold out private concerts, you don’t need a complicated script.

There are no biographies of Ms. Jenkins, and most of what I have found has been from strange and dubious sources. The most lengthy non-internet piece I have managed to find has been a five-page chapter in Songs in the Key of Z, which is kind of a encyclopedia of musically-oriented oddballs. And that’s fine…but when a writer only lists three sources–two liner notes from LPs of Jenkin’s work (which I am desperately trying to get a hold of) and another encyclopedia on eccentricity–and he expends the majority of his stylistic energy coming up with clever synonyms for the word diva, I start to worry. And then there is the cover…

My intern happily scolded me “not to judge a book by its cover” (have you ever honestly had cause to use that line?), but it’s difficult to take this book seriously. But I have to! There is just not a lot out there. There is the transcript of a radio interview with Cosme McMoon (not his real name) in the archive of a university website, and a review of one of Jenkins’s concerts from Time magazine. I’ve found her family history and a few articles from the New York Times (including her surprisingly short obit). But I am hungry for more because she is fascinating! She would make a great interview!

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3 thoughts on “Quote of the Day: They can say I can’t sing, but they can’t say I didn’t.

    1. Well hello there Mr. Collup! I’m a step ahead of you: I ordered your DVD (the last one Amazon had in stock, I believe!) on Monday and received it today. I’m actually watching it right now. Any chance of getting my hands on the interviews you conducted with Darnault and Politz? I would love to hear what they had to say in full (I am chronically addicted to working with primary sources whenever possible)! Actually, would you feel comfortable passing along their contact information? Oh and Gregor Benko’s so that I can ask him if we can use some of those amazing photographs you show in your documentary (especially that 1945 cartoon of Jenkins). Thanks for suggesting your documentary. Trust me, anyone seriously investigating Lady Florence knows it’s out there!

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