Thursday 26 July 2012

Florence Easton

Florence Easton
in Gianni Schicchi
The English soprano, Florence Easton (1882 - 1955), has come up in conversation a bit recently. In my interview with Claire Rutter, Claire mentioned Easton because, though Easton was regarded as a dramatic soprano, she was an early Butterfly and sang Lauretta in the premiere of Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. She sang everything in Wagner except the Gotterdammerung Brunnhilde, whilst keeping the rest of her repertoire. She is one of the few sopranos to have sung Brunnhlde and Norma in the same season (at the Met I believe), something that was only repeated at the Met when Rita Hunter appeared there.

Now soprano Helena Leonard has put together a one-woman show about the soprano, The Nightingale of South Bank. In it, Leonard sings many of Easton's arias and tells the story of Easton's long and varied career. The show was at the Buxton Festival Fringe, though alas I missed it, but there is a review of the show here.

Easton's is a style of voice and performance which has all but disappeared today, but she gives a hint as to what early Brunnhilde's might have sounded like, super-charged lyric sopranos with clear, focussed voices.

Rita Hunter never sang Butterfly on stage, though she did record One fine day and O my beloved Daddy. And Pauline Tinsley, though she had a very wide repertoire and sang Elektra, Turandot and Brunnhilde, she made the more conventional passage from lighter to heavier roles, rather than balancing them simultaneously. In my interview with her, Claire Rutter described how she was planning both her first Elvira (I Puritani) and her first Sieglinde next year, so it will be interesting to see how things develop.

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