A Broadway play about one of opera’s most notorious coloraturas is set to land in Australia.

On October 25, 1944 Mrs Narcissa Florence Foster Jenkins stepped onto the stage of New York’s Carnegie Hall to rapturous applause and proceeded to make musical history. Not that she was in particularly good voice – that certainly wasn’t what her legion of devoted fans expected. They had come to hear a remarkable lady with one of the worst voices in the history of the gramophone fulfil her lifetime ambition and entertain a packed house.

Her handful of hysterically execrable recordings have always offered a tempting glimpse of the Foster Jenkins legend. In recent years, however, at least three plays have sprung up celebrating her extraordinary life, vocal enthusiasm and sheer musical tenacity. One of these, Souvenirby Stephen Temperley, was a Broadway hit in 2005 and receives its Australian premiere in Melbourne this month before moving to Sydney later in March.

Helen Noonan, an opera singer with 1400 performances under her belt as the tempestuous Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera, is taking on the challenge of embodying the legendary soprano and socialite. I ask her outright: “Just how badly do you have...

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