OMG: Guess who’s going to play ‘the world’s worst singer’

OMG: Guess who’s going to play ‘the world’s worst singer’


norman lebrecht

January 06, 2016

joyce didonato falls

Florence Foster Jenkins is known as “the worst singer of all times”. Yet she sold out Carnegie Hall in 1944 and had a large camp following. It’s too good a story to stay off the big screen.

The Florence Foster Jenkins Story goes into production this month … with Joyce DiDonato (pictured) in the title role. Joyce says:  ‘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.’

The film, to be released in November 2016, is produced by the Berlin based 3B-Produktion and distributed by Edition Salzgeber. Additional partners: Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, DFFF (Deutscher Filmförderfonds), ZDF/Arte, SRF, ORF, NRK, SVT, Galerie Kornfeld Berlin and (!) Donna Leon.

The Donna Leon?


  • Peter Covkly says:

    So “nice” of you to use that photo of Joyce. Not good Norm, not good.

    • chet baker says:

      completely agree. dick move.

      • Arthur Ransen says:

        How dare you use that photo? What kind of a cheap, lowlife are you to choose that photo of all the photos you could have used? You are a terrible person, who thinks he is so bloody important…you are awful and it’s no wonder you are hated by the entire music community!!

    • PGynt says:

      Good job DiDonato has more of a sense of humour than some of you guys.

      • Mon Coeur A Ta Doux Voix says:

        Joyce had just caught her heel on the solid (not chalked) framing of the batter’s box, which is hard to see, especially as she was in the process of waving thanks to the wildly cheering crowd that had just listened to her masterful rendition of the National Anthem. If Le Disque Glissant had shown the whole incident, it would have included her swift and graceful recovery, as shown in the same film clip.

      • Richard Biedermeyer says:

        It has nothing to do with a sense of humour you arsehole. It has go do with respecting someone at the top of their art. Lebrecht uses these people as a tool for his own self importance, so he could attempt to respect the people with talent,dedication and real careers (unlike himself) who keep his little, bigoted, sensationalist, selfopiniated website going.

        • Gerhard says:

          I do have my reservations about Mr. Lebrecht. But a choice of sides between his and yours becomes very easy after reading your post …

      • Luk says:

        definitely agree

    • Luk says:

      I think it fits the news actually…

  • Anne Midgette says:

    Interesting timing, given that the Stephen Frears film with Meryl Streep’s interpretation of the same character is currently in post-production.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      And this from France (2015) with Catherine Frot:

      • Marc-Antoine Hamet says:

        Yes! and over 800 000 people went to see Marguerite at the cinema in France last autumn! An adaptation on Mrs Jenkins’ life, with our very own Catherine Frot in a superb acting performance. I hope you can see this in the UK or America.

        • V.Lind says:

          I don’t fancy its chances with all this American talent vying for American attention. We in Canada may be luckier because of Quebec, which, with a great cinema culture of its own, looks outward more than the US, starting of course with France.

          Shades of Steve Prefontaine. Two movies in a year. Who’d even heard of him, and then all that opportunity to see his story told.

          But a battle of the Divas — one n the literal sense, the other in the metaphoric, though as far ass I know neither of them is diva-ish — will bode no good for either project. If the Prefontaine example is anything to go by.

        • Max Grimm says:

          Indeed and the fact that they cast the fantastic Michel Fau as Marguerite’s vocal coach in the movie is absolutely appropriate.

  • Wurtfangler says:

    You wait a lifetime and then three turn up at once?

    It would seem to be the year of the Flo!

    • CDH says:

      That Joyce DiDonato really puts herself about. Baseball, TV, now a movie that seems surplus to requirements. If she were Chinese and a pianist, she would be a target for SD contempt.

  • Marg says:

    Its hard for me to imagine how Joyce is going to play (as in sing, I assume) ‘the worlds worst singer’ with a voice like hers. I wait with delight!

  • Peter says:

    I doubt anyone can be as good and classy in being bad as Florence Foster Jenkins. She was one of a kind.

  • Maud Crossing says:

    Florence Foster Jenkins was one of the world’s worst singers. She was also one of the greatest.

  • Peter Freeman says:

    But JDD is a mezzo and FFJ was a soprano … of sorts! Streep is a great actress but can she sing? Surplus to requirements, I guess! In the stage play Glorious by Peter Quilter on the same subject, Maureen Lipman was hilarious, but I guess is less known Stateside than the two aforementioned. One just hopes the movies are as well researched as is desirable, rather than fictionalised.

    Of other filmworthy funny ladies who were somewhat musical, how about Anna Russell and Joyce Grenfell, the latter also caricatured brilliantly on stage by Ms Lipman in her one-woman show Re: Joyce?

    Of course, unlike those two, nobody will ever know whether FFJ was intentionally funny, which was half her appeal.

  • Dave T says:

    To say that she is totally unknown to American movie audiences is being charitable. This will require considerable marketing.


    Here’s another one. Britain’s own Maureen Lipman played FFG at the Duchess Theatre, London, in 2005:

    She seems to have been a decade ahead of Hollywood producers who’ve suddenly got excited about FFJ. In her 2005 article she says: “There’s never been a movie or a book about her”.

    During the run of the show, Maureen said in an interview: “One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was to sing deliberately out of tune, night after night.”


      Of course I meant FFJ not FFG. Peter Freeman rightly refers to the Lipman play. It was called “Glorious”, well-written by Peter Quilter.

  • milka says:

    Dim wits think she was solely about singing .

  • Sarah says:

    Donna Leon the author is a friend and admirer of JDD via Il Complesso Barocco and the music of Handel. She dedicated one of her recent books to JDD as well.