Florence Foster Jenkins

I randomly came across this movie when it was on free to air TV a couple of weeks ago, and it was amazing. Based on the life of a real person – and I actually looked up the real woman and was happy to see how historically accurate the movie is – Florence Foster Jenkins tells the story of a Gilded Age New York socialite who, near the end of her life, decides she has what it takes to become a famous opera singer.

The problem? She can’t sing to save herself. She becomes infamous rather than famous.

This is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. You laugh and laugh … and then suddenly you’re crying because it really is a tragic story.

Meryl Streep actually trained as an opera singer (something I just learnt), and – much like the character of Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera – in order to sing badly, you first have to learn to sing properly.

The real woman really was an appalling singer, and because she paid to have records of her voice made, you can listen to her even now. She’s even worse than in the movie.

The costumes in this movie are worth your time alone.

Streep was ROBBED of the Oscar for this performance (it went to La La Land that year), and both Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg (who is most famous as a sitcom actor, but who is actually a trained concert pianist) were nominated for Golden Globes for their parts. They’re both brilliant, too.

I’m so glad I stumbled across this.

Prisoners of War in The Mikado

The_Gala_Performance_-_The_Mikado_at_the_Theatre_of_the_British_Civilian_Pow_Camp_Ruhleben_Germany_Art_IWMART6173 1916 First World War One

The comic opera The Mikado, created by Englishmen Gilbert & Sullivan, premiered at the Savoy Theatre in London on the 14th of March, 1885.

This painting depicts the show being performed in the Ruhleben internment camp west of Berlin in Germany in 1916. British prisoners, interned during the First World War, staged the show from memory.

The painting is by Anglo-Dutch artist Nico Jungmann, who was interned at Ruhleben because he was a naturalised British citizen.

From the collection of the Imperial War Museums.

On this day: the premiere of Thaïs

1895 poster for Jules Massenet's opera Thaïs. This dates it to the original run.

1895 poster advertising the opera’s original run. X

Thaïs, a opera by Jules Massenet, had its premiere at the Opéra Garnier in Paris on the 16th of March, 1894.

ELSON(1891) p279 Sybil SANDERSON

Sibyl Sanderson in 1891

Massenet wrote the title role for American soprano Sibyl Sanderson, who performed in the premiere.

Jules_Massenet_by_Eugène_PirouJules Massenet, photographed by Eugène Pirou 1895

Jules Massenet in 1895

A famously difficult opera to perform, a revised version was presented at the same theatre four years after the first performance, though the production remains reserved for only the most talented singers.

 

On this day: the premiere of Don Giovanni

On the 29th of October, 1787, Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni premiered at the Estates Theatre in Prague.

Stavovské_divadloEstates Theatre in 1797

The theatre in 1797

The opera was commissioned after Mozart made a successful trip to Prague earlier the same year.

Originally intended for a October 14 debut, it was not ready in time, and so the schedule was reorganised.

The opera was an immediate success, as Mozart was highly popular in Prague.

(A side note: I have seen this opera performed at the original theatre. 🙂 )

On this day: the first performance of The Magic Flute

Stage set for Mozart's Magic Flute 1815

An 1815 set for the opera.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s famous opera, The Magic Flute, premiered in Vienna on the 30th of September, 1791.

368px-Zauberflöte-Theaterzettel1791The Magic Flute – playbill of the first performance on September 30, 1791 at Schikaneder's Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna.

The playbill for the premiere.

Emanuel Schikaneder, who wrote the German libretto, hosted the premiere at his theatre, the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden. Mozart conducted the orchestra, while Schikaneder performed in the show alongside Mozart’s sister-in-law.

397px-SchikanedersTroupe1791Josepha Hofer in performance with the Schikaneder troupe. Mozart's sister-in-law.

Mozart’s sister-in-law, Josepha Hofer.

The opera was immediately considered a success, though no reviews of the first performance exist.

On this day: The premiere of Wagner’s Parsifal in 1882

 Bayreuth Festspielhaus, as seen in 1882

Bayreuth Festspielhaus photographed in 1882.

Richard Wagner’s last completed opera Parsifal had its premiere in Bayreuth, Germany on the 26th of July 1882.

Poster for the premiere production of Parsifal - 1882360px-Parsifal-affisch

Advertising for the first performances.

A tradition has arisen that the audience does not applaud after the first act, in order to maintain the mood of the story.

In an attempt to preserve the integrity of the production Wagner only allowed the opera to be performed at the Bayreuth Festival. However this began to change after his death the following year. By 1884 some theatres in other countries were staging the opera.