Glorious! is based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the legendary New York heiress and socialite who wanted to be a great operatic diva despite having one of the worst singing voices in history.
Despite lacking talent, the ever-confident Florence continued to sing, drawing large crowds of loyal listeners who fell in love with her undeniable charm and unstoppable will-power.
Born Florence Foster in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to Charles Dorrance Foster and Mary Jane Hoagland, Jenkins received music lessons as a child, and expressed a desire to go abroad to study music. Her wealthy father refused to pay the bill, so she eloped to Philadelphia with Frank Thornton Jenkins, a medical doctor. The two divorced in 1902. She earned a living there as a teacher and pianist.
Upon her father's death in 1909, Jenkins inherited a sum of money which allowed her to take up the singing career that had been discouraged by her parents and former husband. She became involved in the musical life of Philadelphia, and later New York City, where she founded and funded the Verdi Club, took singing lessons, and began to give recitals, her first in 1912. Her mother's death in 1928 gave her additional freedom and resources to pursue singing.
Despite her patent lack of ability, Jenkins was firmly convinced of her greatness. She compared herself favorably to the renowned sopranos Frieda Hempel and Luisa Tetrazzini, and dismissed the laughter which often came from the audience during her performances as coming from her rivals consumed by "professional jealousy." She was aware of her critics, however, saying "People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."
Interest in Jenkins was revived in 2001 when Viva La Diva, a play about Jenkins by Chris Ballance, had a run at the Edinburgh Fringe. Another play about Jenkins' life, Souvenir, by Stephen Temperley, opened on Broadway in November 2005, and starred Judy Kaye as Jenkins. A third play about Jenkins, Glorious! by Peter Quilter, opened two months earlier in England; it has since been widely translated and performed in more than 20 countries.
Jenkins is mentioned in several works by musical artists. Boston-based indie folk band The Everyday Visuals released a song "Florence Foster Jenkins" on their self-titled LP in 2009. The song references her performance at Carnegie and other aspects of her life. A hidden track entitled "Encore for Florence" concludes folk singer Mary Hampton's debut album My Mother's Children.
Jenkins, dubbed "Flo Fo" by NBC's BrIan Williams, was the subject of the "Not My Job" segment of NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! for October 25, 2009. The episode appropriately took place in Carnegie Hall.
Peter Quilter's Glorious! opens in 1940s New York in the apartment Madame Jenkins shares with the English actor, St. Clair, and finds her auditioning her pianist Cosme McMoon. Along with Maria, a maid who speaks no English, and Dorothy, her ditzy companion, their exploits lead all the way to a crowning moment in Carnegie Hall.
Peter Quilter Quilter's plays have been translated into 13 languages and presented in 21 countries. He has had two shows in London´s West End and productions in many of the world´s great cities, including Cape Town, Helsinki, Prague, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney.