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The Muse Surmounted
Florence Foster Jenkins and eleven of her rivals

A celebration of sincerity of the heart and transfixed
dedication in singing which has otherwise gone unrecognized

Florence Foster Jenkins

Just imagine Florence Foster Jenkins . . . times eleven, and you have an idea of the wealth (or dearth) of musical treasures enclosed on this disc.

see review from Boston Globe (CDs of off-key singers are at times hilarious, horrifying) by Richard Dyer, November 12, 2004

  • Homophone 1001
1. Bizet: Carmen Potpourri Homophone Orchestra
2. "Fado Celestial": Rosalina Mello
3. Weber: Reigen Alice Gerstl Duschak
4. Graun: Artaserce: Va tra la selve Betty-Jo Schramm
5. Meyer-Helmud: Margita: Canzonetta Tryphosa Bates-Batcheller
6. Massenet: Manon: Je marche Natalia De Andrade
7. Saint-Saens: Samson and Dalila: Bacchanale Homophone Orchestra
8. Verdi: Il Trovotore: Miserere Olive Middleton
9. Verdi: Aida: Tomb Scene Norma-Jean Erdmann Chadbourne
10. Verdi: Aida: Act Four excerpt Sylvia Sawyer
11. Puccini: Tosca (abridged) Vassilka Petrova
12. Rossini: The Barber of Seville: Una voce poco fa Mari Lyn
13. Verdi: La Traviata: Ah fors e lui; Sembre libera Sari Bunchuk Wontner
14. Hanby: Darling Nellie Gray Tryphosa Bates-Batcheller
15. McMoon: Valse Caressante Florence Foster Jenkins
16. Reminiscence of Florence Foster Jenkins Cosme McMoon

Tryphosa Bates-Batcheller
Natalia De Andrade
Sari Bunchuk Wontner

The German label “Homophone” was launched with a 78 rpm disc of Flemish tenor Ernst van Dyck, recorded long past his prime in 1905. Now the label and its traditions are resurrected, and Homophone is reborn. Using the original colorful logo, the new Homophone label offers a compilation of twelve women singers of a certain class, including Florence Foster Jenkins and her rivals. THE MUSE SURMOUNTED is subtitled “A Celebration of Sincerity of the Heart and Transfixed Dedication in Singing Which Has Otherwise Gone Unrecognized.” VAI is the exclusive distributor for Homophone.

Clearly producer Gregor Benko’s favorite is the improbably named Tryphosa Bates-Batcheller, who recorded two unique discs for the same label as Florence Foster Jenkins at about the same time, but have remained unknown until now. Benko is certain she will achieve stardom through this issue.

Besides Jenkins, Bates-Batcheller and some reissued tracks of Vassilka Petrova (“The Tosca from Hell” - Conrad L. Osborn), Norma-Jean Erdmann-Chadbourne (known to millions as “Jenny Williams” for her Faust travesty), Alice Gerstl Duschak (Jessye Norman’s early teacher), as well as Rosalina Mello, Sylvia Sawyer and Natalia de Andrade, the compilation presents truly astonishing recordings issued for the first time of songbirds Mari Lyn (Marilyn Sussman), Olive Middleton, Sari Bunchuk Wontner and Betty-Jo Schramm, in music ranging from a Portuguese Fado to arias by Graun through Verdi, with a Weber song and “Darling Nellie Gray” for good measure.

A bonus track presents Cosme McMoon, the pianist who played for Florence Foster Jenkins’ Carnegie Hall Recital in 1944 (and later tried to steal her estate) talking about Lady Florence, as she liked to be called.

The CD’s booklet contains rare photos of the divas and a long essay by Benko, the result of nine years' research, including biographies of these elusive singers plus short essays by Robert Maxwell Stern and Ed Tapper. Included is the sordid, true story of Florence Foster Jenkins told for the first time, based on materials never before available to scholars. ©2004 Homophone

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