Souvenir—A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins
by Stephen Temperley
Directed by Nathan Stith
For more than half a century the name Florence Foster Jenkins has been guaranteed to produce explosions of derisive laughter. Not unreasonably so, as this wealthy society eccentric suffered under the delusion that she was a great coloratura soprano when she was in fact incapable of producing two consecutive notes in tune. Nevertheless, her annual recitals in the ballroom of the Ritz Carlton hotel brought her extraordinary fame. Her growing mob of fans packed her recitals, stuffing handkerchiefs in their mouths to stifle their laughter—which Mrs. Jenkins blissfully mistook for cheers. SOUVENIR, by turn hilarious and poignant, tells her story through the eyes of her accompanist, Cosme McMoon. Eyewitness accounts of their concerts vary so wildly it is almost impossible now to separate fact from gossip. Hence this fictional “biography,” in which we follow the story of their partnership from its earliest days to their infamous concert in Carnegie Hall and its aftermath. With each new imagined triumph Florence’s confidence soars. Faced with her boundless certainty, Cosme comes to revise his attitude, not only towards her singing but to the very meaning of music itself. A musical odd-couple for the ages.