It's unclear if self-styled operatic soprano Florence Foster Jenkins was ever in on the joke that her disastrous performances became. Over a 30-year career that perhaps is best called titanic, the stout matron warbled her way through Mozart, Strauss and Verdi—apparently without stressing over such constricting musical conventions as accurate pitch, pacing or vocal color. Her recordings and concert appearances, offered in earnest, were increasingly sought for their comedic value. After laughter rocked her Carnegie Hall debut, she died one month later.
In Stephen Temperley's play with music, her longtime (and long-suffering) accompanist, one Cosmé McMoon, tells the inside story of the worst soprano in recorded history in a work that mixes hilarity and hubris with poignancy. Lisa Jolley and Jonas Cohen star in this Hot Summer Nights/Theatre Raleigh production, which runs Wednesdays–Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Oct. 14. —Byron Woods