The acclaimed American mezzo-soprano will play Florence Foster Jenkins, the infamously bad singer, in a new film.

American coloratura mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato will make her cinematic debut as the infamous American soprano Florence Foster Jenkins – dubbed the world’s worst singer – in the new film, The Florence Foster Jenkins Story.

A soprano and a socialite, Jenkins (1868-1944) was known for her lack of rhythm, pitch and dubious tone – but her recordings still outsell many contemporary singers. She gave performances in small salons and recital halls to audiences by invitation only, and her final performance in the prestigious Carnegie Hall was attended by the likes of singer Cole Porter, actress Kitty Carlisle and actress Marge Champion. Jenkins developed a cult following who were attracted to her single-minded determination to sing, despite her lack of ability, as well as her personal eccentricities. One such account of Jenkins’ irrepressible spirit tells how she once let out a scream while riding in a taxi that collided with another car. Afterwards, she sent the driver an expensive box of cigars because it was during the accident she found she could sing “a higher F than ever before”.

“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,” says DiDonato of her upcoming screen debut portraying 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.”

DiDonato is as far removed from Jenkins as it’s possible to be: she’s appeared with the likes of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, New York City Opera and the Houston Grand Opera at venues such as Covent Garden. She’s curated and performed a series at Carnegie Hall, and enthralled over 25 million viewers with the US national anthem at the final game of the Major League Baseball World Series. Casting an undeniably talented singer as the woeful Jenkins will juxtapose the reality and the delusion of the musical world.

The Original Florence Foster Jenkins

The film’s director, EMMY-nominated Ralf Pleger, will explore the cult success of Jenkin’s eccentric career through grand fictional scenes as well as documentary interviews with experts and testimonies from audience members who saw Jenkins perform live.

Jenkins has been the inspiration behind many theatrical pieces – including Margeurite, a comedy from French director Xavier Giannoli that tells the story of a socialite who buys her way into the spotlight, and also another film biopic Florence Foster Jenkins due for released in 2016, directed by Stephen Frears with Meryl Streep in the lead role.

The Florence Foster Jenkins Story will be released in November 2016, produced by the Berlin-based 3B-Produktion and distributed by Edition Salzgeber, with additional support from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Donna Leon and others.

DiDonato’s album Stella di Napoli won our Limelight Opera Recording of the Year 2014, and you can read Limelight writer Alexandra Coghlan’s interview with DiDonato here

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