“Florence Austral – Our forgotten Diva”

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Florence Austral (1930. Artist Howard Barron. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Australia.

“Florence Austral – Our forgotten Diva” Project – Florence Austral (1892-1968) was a world renowned singer and performed in Opera Houses around the world during the early 20th century. She taught singing at the Newcastle Conservatorium (now part of UON) from 1954 until 1959.

The Florence Austral Society is collaborating with City of Newcastle and UON Library to officially recognise Austral’s contribution to the city.  City of Newcastle’s Community and Cultural Advisory Committee is working on the project to raise awareness of Madame Austral to be a catalyst for further projects about the city’s music and cultural history and heritage.

“Push for Newcastle to officially recognise opera great, Florence Austral” Hillary Oliver interviewed by ABC Newcastle’s Dan Cox and Jenny Marchant  on 28 August 2019

The following Timeline was created by Kyle Yerbury, Work Integrated Student at GLAMx Lab, Sem 2, 2020.

Florence Austral was an opera singer born in Melbourne who became world-famous abroad. The power of her voice and the great control she could exert over it earned her the esteem of being the greatest dramatic soprano in the world. In her youth, she won a scholarship by competing in the acclaimed Ballarat South Street Festival, then left Australia in 1918 to study abroad. Disillusionment and missed chances in America meant that she planned to sail home, but decided to take a detour to London before going home, and earnt instant acclaim with her operatic debut as Brunnehilde in Die Walkürie. After two decades of touring, Austral returned to Australia in the 1940s after the war and transitioned into teaching, first at the Melbourne Conservatorium, then in the brand-new Newcastle Conservatorium.

1892 – Birth

Austral was born in Richmond, Melbourne, “the only daughter of William Wilson, a Swedish carpenter, and his wife Helena Mary, a dressmaker.”1 As a baby, she would have listened to the choir singing from “the nearby church of St. Ignatius,”2 and, growing up, would sing “ballads and little songs at amateur and church concerts.”3

1913 – Ballarat South Street Festival

Austral travelled to Ballarat to compete in the South Street Festival.4 She had never been formally instructed in singing, and she did not esteem herself highly. When her friends told her to enter the competition, she suspected they were trying to play a joke on her.5 During the competition, she asked one of the judges what he meant when he said “operatic arias.”6 Still, she won first prize in the “mezzo-soprano” category and placed second in two others.7

1913 – 1919 Musical Education

Fritz Hart, “adjudicator” of the Ballarat South Street Festival, encouraged Austral to take lessons with Madame Elise Weidermann, a teacher at the Conservatorium of Music in Melbourne.8 In 1917, she won a place in a course at the Conservatorium in Melbourne9 and studied “singing, harmony, and the piano.”10 At the behest of Weidermann, Austral decided to travel internationally.11

1919 – First Successes & Setbacks

In London, Austral accepted her first London gig in “a Sunday League Concert at Alhambra for a fee of two guineas.”12 On the back of that performance, she was asked to audition by Henry Higgins for a part in his production of The Ring.13 She got the part and began preparing for the 1920 season, but it was postponed.14

1921 – A Romantic Sojourn

Towards the end of July in 1921, Austral took a vacation to southern Germany with John Amadio during her Summer break from the London School of Opera.15 In her letters to her family during that time, Austral made no mention of John Amadio, and told her family that her companion was a woman.16

1922 – A Grand Debut

Austral played as Brunnehilde in Die Walkürie at Covent Garden in London, and her performance that night earned her “a standing ovation and eleven solo curtain calls.”17 Interestingly, she was forced to the stage to sing without “having sung with the orchestra before, owing to the expense of orchestral rehearsals.”18 She made her costume herself, save the cuirass and helmet, which belonged to Agnes Nicholls, another English soprano, which were both uncomfortably tight.19 Critics praised her powerful voice, but commented that “the soprano’s technique and histrionic skills” lacked development.20 However, the debut put Austral favourably into the public eye, and, that season, she sang all over England.

1922 – Experiment with Early Recording Technology

In collaboration with the Gramophone Company, Austral made the first recordings of her voice, which were “committed to shellac.”21 There were severe limitations for recording equipment at that time: “most of the recording took place in a small room, the orchestra [was] reduced to the lowest possible limit, and we were crowded together in the endeavour to propel whatever we had to play into one or two recording bells.”22 During the recording, the conductor had to pull Austral toward the recording bells “for some notes, and [push] her back for the dangerous ones.”23 This was the beginning of Austral’s relationship with the Gramophone Company; she kept working with the ‘His Master’s Voice’ label until early 1930.24 According to Fred Gaisberg, the Gramophone Company’s “first recording engineer,” Austral was “the most important recording soprano [they] had, thanks to the beauty, power, and compass of her voice.”25

1925 – The Cincinatti Festival

Austral had her American debut at the Cincinatti May Festival on May 7th, 1925.26 The critics loved her; Olin Downes said that “her first solo in the Brahms requiem was the occasion for prolonged applause.”27 With her success in America, Austral was transformed into a global phenomenon.

1925 – Man and Wife

Austral, according to the testimony of friends, was known socially as Mrs. Amadio and lived with John Amadio as though they were “man and wife,” but they were not married.28 According to a family member, when Austral’s mother and stepfather found out that their daughter was living with a divorced man and intending to marry him, “there was trouble: the story goes there was an argument, Florence pushed her mother down the stairs, and from that day on mother and daughter parted.”29 On the 15th of December 1925, Florence Austral and John Amadio married outside of the public eye “at the Hampstead Registry Office of London.”30

1929 – A Catholic Imposition

Austral was told “without any warning whatsoever” that she could not partake in the Three Choirs Festival planned to take place in Worcester Cathedral on the 10th and 13th of September, 1929.31 This decision was justified by the church based on the fact Austral “had been nominated in John Amadio’s divorce proceedings back in 1925.”32 Austral did not make public comments initially; John Amadio kept her ignorant of the fact of the Church’s ban, but was willing to speak to reporters, telling one journalist that the decision was “tyranny worthy of the middle ages.”33 Austral apparently became ill when her husband told her why she could not perform at the festival.34 “It has hurt me terribly,” she said; “I desire only to forget the whole unhappy incident.”35

1930 – Back to Australia

Austral made plans in Britain to tour Australia and South Africa.36 It would be the first time Austral had been back to Australia since she left a decade prior. It was not Austral’s intention to “sing ’em muck,” as Dame Nellie Melba infamously suggested was all the Australian public could understand, but instead planned to keep “the format and repertory of the programmes [she had] hitherto offered her audiences throughout North America and Britain.”37 “It will be the thrill of our lives to return to our own warm country and its warm-hearted people,” Austral said in a press conference following her last performance in Britain before the tour.38

1930 – The First English Soprano in Berlin

Austral made her continental debut in a performance of Die Walkürie as a “guest artist” with the Berlin State Opera at the Hofopernhaus Unter den Linden.39 Unremarked on by the press of Berlin was the fact that “[Austral may have been] the first British soprano to sing Brunnhilde in Berlin.”40 Before her third planned performance, Austral “suffered the greatest disillusionment of her career” – her contract was unceremoniously torn up because the Berlin State Opera thought her “German pronunciation was unacceptable.”41 She had previously performed in German operas but her biographers argue her deficiencies in pronunciation were probably “passed over” by critics who did not understand German.42 Her pronunciation was “in actual fact no worse than that of her fellow cast members [in England].”43 In a theatre accompanied by native German speakers, her anglicised pronunciation was “particularly conspicuous” and intolerable.44 Austral, fearing what the public reception might be to news of this dismissal, fabricated a cover story involving tonsilitis.45

1930 – An Extravagant Gift

Austral, on account of her characterisation in the press as a lover of animals, was gifted a lion cub by “a wealthy fan.”46 She named him Schubert, and, for a few years, he “dominated [the Amadios’] Hampstead home”.47 Because Schubert grew very large, and Austral and Amadio took regular trips away from their London home, the couple decided to relinquish him to the London Zoo.48 Bizarrely, no record of the donation exists in the London Zoo registers.49

1934 – The Full Flowering of her Art

Austral and Amadio returned to Australia for their second tour of the country in 1934. It was planned to be far more extensive than their 1930 tour; the itinerary comprised ‘the capital cities and rural centres of each of the six Australian states’ and a trip to New Zealand over eight months.50 In time, the tour became ‘a greatly protracted stay in the Antipodes’ – she remained until 1936.51

1934 – Obsessed with Tapestries

One of Austral’s favourite pastimes was embroidery. For years, Austral worked on creating ‘elaborate tapestries’ for a set of ten ‘spider-back Chippendale chairs.52 Along with that, she had created ‘a piano-stool cover which featured a renaissance design embodying a leaf motif and gargoyle heads.’53 During her 1934 Australia tour, ‘exhibitions were mounted at Myer in Adelaide and Melbourne, Farmer’s in Sydney, and at other leading department stores around the country.’54 While travelling, Austral devoted much of her free time to knitting, especially when aboard ships and ‘on the long train journeys she was forced to take in America.’55

1935 – Contracted by the ABC

As Austral’s broad Australian tour lost steam in 1935, she and John Amadio signed a contract with the ABC requiring them to travel to ‘the principal ABC radio stations in the capital cities and give studio recitals that were to be broadcast live.’56 Broadcasting opera live from a studio was then a new concept in Australia, and, through her years of working in studios, Austral had still not been completely won over by the performance format. It was Austral’s opinion that her ‘voluminous’ voice was not suitable for recording, because the ‘dramatic intensity’ and ‘quality of the tone’ of her voice was lost when recorded by a microphone.57

1941 – Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts

The Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) tried to ‘preserve and promote the arts in wartime.’58 In 1941, Austral joined up with CEMA, along with ‘a growing number of British musicians.’59 According to Elphinstone and Hancock, CEMA’s modus operandi was to host events featuring ‘three or four artists’ at ‘factories and camps’ all over Britain.60 In association with CEMA, Austral did some canteen work but primarily travelled ‘to all sorts of out-of-the-way places to sing for the soldiers.’61 Austral tried to keep up with the organisation as long as she could, but, as she later revealed in an interview, she had to give up performing with CEMA because the work had exhausted her physically.62

1943 – Final Performance in Britain

At Champness Hall on 19 August 1943, Austral gave her ‘last fully-documented performance… in Britain.’63 The engagement had a small audience and, according to press reports, was tarnished by the appearance of ‘crude, vaudeville-style entertainers’ who ‘created an atmosphere of irritating piffle.’64 “[Austral] was terrible [and] didn’t know [her part],” said Marion Keuchen, ‘a member of a provincial choir society’ who performed with Austral in Handel’s Messiah.65  Despite that, some critics did praise Austral for retaining the ‘same soaring beauty of tone’ that she had displayed throughout her career.66

Portrait Florence Austral – Hand painted photograph of Florence by Giuseppe Risicato (Courtesy, University of Newcastle, Special Collections)

1946 – Permanent Return to Australia

Prior to returning to Australia in 1946, Austral attempted to gain a place in the ABC’s roster of broadcast artists. In private ABC correspondence, Arthur Mason, an ABC contact in London, reported that Kenneth Wright of the BBC said that ‘Austral [had] not been heard anywhere in London or elsewhere for two years,’ and that, when he last saw her perform, ‘she was not in good singing form and her voice, [he] thought, had lost some of its fomer volume and quality.’67 After that, Austral received ambiguous correspondence from the ABC, such as from William James, who spoke indeterminately of Austral’s future with the ABC; but even without a firm reply, Austral was set entirely on ‘[quitting] England.’68 Before she left, she ‘sold her house, packed her belongings…, and sold her Steinway grand piano.’69 After twenty-five years of living abroad, Austral left England and never returned.

1946 – Carols by Candlelight

Austral’s first engagement after returning to Australia was in Carols by Candlelight.70 Austral picked Alleluia, ‘a mainstay of her repertoire,’ as her song.71 However, the song put unexpected stress on Austral as a performer and, according to observers, ‘her voice had lost its former vibrancy’ and ‘was clearly past its best.’72 As a consequence of her ‘disappointing’ performance, Austral did not receive many requests for ‘further engagements.’73 Here, Austral’s time as a dramatic soprano met its end.

1947 – The Melbourne University Conservatorium

In 1947, Austral’s wealth was much more modest than it had been in the 20s and 30s in London.74 One of the only avenues open to her for earning an income was teaching. After an attempt at creating an independent vocal school, Austral joined the faculty of Melbourne University’s Conservatorium.75 In the opinion of Auriel Garratt, a young soprano, Austral’s instruction was not very enlightening, and her ability to convey the basics of vocal technique was poor.76 Garratt did not feel her lessons with Austral were fruitful, and decided to stop taking lessons from her because ‘[she] felt [Austral] was forcing her voice.’77 It was in the very area that Austral’s voice had been most praised, ‘tone production,’ that she was least able to impart knowledge effectively to her pupils.78

1950 – Separation from John Amadio

Austral expected John Amadio to live with her in Melbourne when he returned to Australia, and he did move in with her when he first got to Australia. However, after he went to Sydney for an engagement with the ABC, ‘Amadio unexpectedly left his wife and moved in with his sister.’79 They never officially divorced. As it was never reported in the press, the reason for the breakup is ‘subject to speculation.’80 Gladys Bailey, a student of Austral, relates that Austral was ‘devastated’ and ‘did not know why [Amadio] had ended the marriage.’81

1952 – Exchanging Melbourne for Newcastle

In 1952, Austral departed from Melbourne to take up residence in Newcastle, where she had gained employment in the ‘newly established’ Newcastle Conservatorium of Music.82 The position was very attractive to her, because it gave her the opportunity to teach students who had never been formally trained.83 However, there was still little evidence to suggest that Austral’s teaching abilities were remarkable. According to Elphinstone and Hancock, most of the people from the Newcastle Conservatorium who spoke about Austral’s teaching observed that she was ‘severely limited in her means of imparting knowledge in a practical way.’84 Most obstructive to her was the fact that ‘her singing voice had unmistakably gone.’85 In the words of Harold Lobb, the Conservatorium director, Austral’s voice was ‘always an octave too low, with the vocal quality as rough as bags’86; but Austral’s students revered her and ‘derived substantial enjoyment from her lessons.’87

1959 – Retirement

Austral became manifestly more ill as she got older. She parked her car down a hill to go to work and said she ‘practically had to crawl back up the hill’ to get to work.88 In a confession to a friend, Joyce Blewitt, Austral explained that ‘her feet were in agony and her shoes… no longer fit comfortably.’89 To add to that, Austral developed breast cancer and had a mastectomy; Betty Evans, a former student, believes it happened ‘during the Christmas break of 1957-58.’90 Alongside that, in 1958, Kezia Fraser, ‘Austral’s colleague in the vocal department,’ quit her job in the Conservatorium to get married, a decision which left Austral the lone teacher in the vocal department.91 Despite the appointment of ‘baritone John Probyn’ to the faculty, the burden of the position became overwhelming and she retired in 1959.92

1960 – Decline in Health and Death

In the twilight of her life, Austral was lucid mentally but her physical health held her back from complete independence. After 1960, she rarely left her home, and what little she did outside, like gardening, was a physical challenge.93 By the mid-1960s, she had rearranged her furniture to make it easier to get around her home, and ‘a housewife from East Maitland,’ Marjorie Foot, had assumed Austral’s domestic responsibilities.94 This benefit, along with other conveniences added to Austral’s home, like a telephone and a television, were provided through ‘the activities of the Florence Austral Tribute Fund’ and through the proceeds from a concert, organised by the Newcastle Conservatorium for March 26, 1963, dedicated to celebrating Austral’s life.95 In 1967, Austral began living in the Annesley House Methodist Nursing Home at Mayfield; there, on May 15, 1968, she died aged seventy-six.96

Footnotes – available HERE (or at end of post)

Also see the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

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Courtesy National Library of Australia
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Portrait of Florence Austral, 1947 created by Pate, William A.S
https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/133715288
Florence Austral for Newcastle – Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate (1876 – 1954) Newcastle, NSW, 25 April 1952 announcement of teaching in Newcastle

 

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Florence Austral with Eugene Haynes at Newcastle. Courtesy Newcastle Morning Herald. 25 April 1952
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Florence Austral at home in Newcastle Newcastle Morning Herald 10 March 1953
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Opera Singer Florence Austral. Photographer Ron Morrison 28 April 1962

 

The project includes archival searches and historic research and for Work Integrated Learning sudents to be involved.

LISTEN TO Sound recordings below.

Twilight of the Gods (Die Götterdämmerung (1928) by Florence Austral NFSA ID: 273004

There is a Green Hill (1926) by Florence Austral NFSA ID: 259764

Hall of Fame Florence Austral 1892-1968

There are also a number of recordings from BBC held at the British Library National Library.  British Library – Search ‘Florence Austral’

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Florence Austral, dramatic soprano, unknown photographer 1929
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Opera singer Florence Austral and flautist John Amadio, New South Wales, ca. 1934 . National Library of Australia
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Madame Florence Austral arriving in Sydney and standing beside a man with a large bouquet of flowers, Sydney, 23 May 1930.
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Madame Florence Austral arriving in Sydney and receiving flowers from four women, Sydney, 23 May 1930. National Library of Australia.
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Opera singer Florence Austral and flautist John Amadio, New South Wales, ca. 1934 National Library of Australia

 

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/170716344

 

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES – (Download PDF HERE)

1922

Miss Florence Austral Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954) Fri 21 Apr 1922

Miss Florence Austral – The Mercury (1860 – 1954) Hobart, Saturday, 22 July 1922

1923

Miss Florence Austral Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate (1876 – 1954) 21/6/1923 [About performance in London at the Handel Festival.]

Miss Florence Austral Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate (1876 – 1954) Newcastle, NSW NSW Thursday, 21 June 1923   Performance at Handel Festival in London.

1924

Florence Austral – The Australasian (1864 – 1946) Melbourne, VIC, 15 November 1924 Shows recent photo of FA.

1925

FLORENCE AUSTRAL – US DebutThe Age (1854 – 1954) Melbourne 10/2/1925
[Mentions she is heading to the Cincinnati Festival in May. Probably this event.[

Florence Austral Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate (1876 – 1954) Newcastle, NSW, 23 September 1925

Florence Austral – Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate (1876 – 1954) Newcastle, NSW, 11 May 1925

Florence Austral – Table Talk (1885 – 1939) Melbourne, VIC VIC Thursday, 30 April 1925 [Leaving England for America]

Florence Austral The Sun (1910 – 1954) Sydney, NSW, 10 February 1925  [US debut, Cincinnati Festival May 7-9]

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AUSTRALIAN’S SUCCESS Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954) Wed 10 Jun 1925

1926

FLORENCE Austral has left England – Table Talk (1885 – 1939) Melbourne, 30/4/1925. Praise for Florence Austral – Weekly Times (1869 – 1954) Melbourne. [Adds to above information about leaving England for US].  2/10/1926

Praise for Florence AustralWeekly Times (1869 – 1954) Melbourne, VIC, 2 October 1926.  quote from chicago tribune/Edward Moore

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AUSTRAL-AMADIO TRIUMPH  Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954)  Mon 22 Nov 1926

1927

Florence AustralThe Daily News (1882 – 1950) Perth, WA, 3 February 1927

1929

 

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CATHEDRAL BANS FLORENCE AUSTRAL The Register News-Pictorial (Adelaide, SA : 1929 – 1931)  Thu 12 Sep 1929

1930

Florence Austral. The Labor Daily (1924 – 1938) Sydney, NSW. 22 May 1930

Florence Austral. Manjimup Mail and Jardee-Pemberton-Northcliffe Press (1927 – 1950). WA. 6 June 1930.

Madam Florence Austral. The Queenslander (1866 – 1939) Brisbane, QLD.  6 February 1930.

MADAME FLORENCE AUSTRA The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947) Wed 11 Jun 1930

florence and cat
FLORENCE AUSTRAL Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Mon 20 Aug 1934

Florence Austral Returns Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936) Thu 13 Mar 1930

Florence Austral Bunyip (1863 – 1954) Gawler, SA. Tuesday, 6 May 1930

Florence Austral The Northern Producer and Morawa and Perenjori Advertiser (1928 – 1930) WA. 7 June 1930

Sketch

Florence Austral The Daily News (1882 – 1950) Perth,WA. 7 August 1930

Florence Austral Queensland Figaro (1901 – 1936) Brisbane, QLD. 31 May 1930

Florence Austral The Daily News (1882 – 1950) Perth, WA, 9 August 1930

Florence Austral Narembeen Observer (1928 – 1933) Narembeen, WA, 6 June 1930

Florence Austral Ballidu-Wongan Budget (1927 – 1941)WA, 7 June 1930

Florence Austral The Brisbane Courier (1884 – 1933) Brisbane, QLD, 14 June 1930

Florence Austral The Daily News (1882 – 1950) Perth, WA, 2 August 1930

Florence Austral Toodyay Herald (1912 – 1954) Toodyay, WA, 6 June 1930

Aero Club Flight to Victoria Florence Austral’s Welcome. The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954)  Thu 22 May 1930

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Florence Austral – Avon Argus and Cunderdin-Meckering-Tammin Mail (1925 – 1954) WA, 6 June 1930.

Florence Austral – Mullewa Magnet and Perenjori-Morawa Advertiser (1927 – 1931) WA, 7 June 1930

Florence AustralSydney Mail (1912 – 1938) Sydney, NSW, 21 May 1930 41  Mentions she performed at the Cincinnati Festival prior 1930

Florence Austral The Daily News (1882 – 1950) Perth, WA, 30 July 1930

Florence Austral Queensland Figaro (1901 – 1936) Brisbane, QLD, 7 June 1930

Florence Austral  The Eastern Recorder (1909 – 1954) Kellerberrin, WA, 6 June 1930 –  biography

Singer as Cook Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954) Sun 1 Jun 1930

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Florence Austral’s Triumph – The Herald (1861 – 1954) Melbourne, VIC, 23 June 1930  Image

Florence Austral The Evening News (1924 – 1941) Rockhampton, QLD, 4 March 1930   correspondent in London.

Florence Austral soon Truth (1900 – 1954) Brisbane, QLD, 4 May 1930

Florence Austral The Age (1854 – 1954)Melbourne, VIC Saturday, 17 May 1930

Florence Austral Nelson Advocate (1926 – 1938) Nelson County, WA, 6 June 1930

Florence Austral  The Queenslander (1866 – 1939)Brisbane, QLD, 13 March 1930

Madame Florence Austral The West Australian (1879 – 1954) Perth, WA, 2 August 1930   Article mainly list of upcoming events

1932

MALCOLM SARGENT AND MME. FLORENCE AUSTRAL Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954) Sun 25 Dec 1932

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1933

On the other side of the World: Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 – 1954)  Thu 23 Nov 1933

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1934

Madame Florence Austral’s InterestsBarrier Miner (1888 – 1954) 19/5/1934 [Human interest piece on her interests]

A SINGER’S HOBBIES.Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954)  Thu 26 Apr 1934

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Florence Austral Huon and Derwent Times (1933 – 1942) TAS, 26 April 1934

Florence Austral The Mercury (1860 – 1954) Hobart, TAS, 21 April 1934

Florence Austral The Sydney Morning Herald (1842 – 1954) Sydney, NSW, 4 August 1934

FLORENCE AUSTRAL concert at Deniliquin . Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  The Independent (Deniliquin, NSW : 1901 – 1946)  Fri 13 Jul 1934

FLORENCE AUSTRAL – Her Glorious Career Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Mon 20 Aug 1934

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Florence Austral The Mercury (1860 – 1954) Hobart, TAS, 19 April 1934

Florence Austral  The Riverine Herald (1869 – 1954) Echuca, VIC, 14 July 1934

Florence Austral The Sydney Morning Herald (1842 – 1954) Sydney, NSW, 21 July 1934

Florence Austral The Australasian (1864 – 1946) Melbourne, VIC, 2 June 1934.  returned to aus after 4 years

A Singer Who Loves Her Kitchen NSW : 1912 – 1938)  (Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 – 1938)  Wed 15 Aug 1934

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Florence Austral Border Watch (1861 – 1954) Mount Gambier, SA, 3 July 1934

Florence Austral Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate (1876 – 1954) Newcastle, NSW, 23 June 1934 poem written for FA

Florence Austral Beautiful Singing The Australasian (1864 – 1946) Melbourne, VIC Saturday, 16 June 1934

Florence Austral  Shepparton Advertiser (1914 – 1953) Shepparton, VIC, 12 July 1934

AmusementsThe Age (1854 – 1954) Melbourne, VIC, 13 February 1934

Florence Austral Final Concert The Age (1854 – 1954) Melbourne, VIC, 23 June 1934 programme list

Florence Austral’s Diet The Sun (1910 – 1954) Sydney, NSW, 5 August 1934

Madame Florence Austral’s Interests – Barrier Miner (1888 – 1954) Broken Hill, NSW, 19 May 1934

Florence Austral  The Mercury (1860 – 1954) Hobart, TAS, 20 April 1934

Florence Austral Concert The North Eastern Ensign (1872 – 1938) Benalla, VIC VIC Friday, 20 July 1934   programme list

1935

Florence Austral – The Northern Miner (1874 – 1954) Charters Towers, QLD, 20 June 1935

Florence Austral – Morning Bulletin (1878 – 1954) Rockhampton, QLD. 18 May 1935

A FLORENCE AUSTRAL TAPESTRY The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947) Mon 6 May 1935

tapestry

Florence Austral Tonight Morning Bulletin (1878 – 1954) Rockhampton, QLD, 30 May 1935

Florence Austral Concert Daily Advertiser (1911 – 1954) Wagga Wagga, NSW, 25 April 1935

Florence Austral Townsville Daily Bulletin (1907 – 1954) Townsville, QLD, 4 June 1935

HOBBIES OF FLORENCE AUSTRAL The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947) Thu 16 May 1935

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AUSTRAL TAKES 30 RE-CALLS Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1926 – 1954)  Sun 7 Apr 1935

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Florence Austral Morning Bulletin (1878 – 1954) Rockhampton, QLD, 28 May 1935

Florence Austral – Townsville Daily Bulletin (1907 – 1954) Townsville, QLD, 1 June 1935

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Florence Austral The Mercury (1860 – 1954) Hobart, TAS, 1 May 1935

Florence AustralDaily Mercury (1906 – 1954) Mackay, QLD Wednesday, 22 May 1935   FA left Melbourne 15ya (1920)

Daily Mercury (1906 – 1954) Mackay, QLD, 1 June 1935

Florence Austral –

When she was a school-girl In Melbourne, Florence Austral’s rich soprano proved a constant source of amazement to her friends, for its extraordinary power was something of a phenomenon. The young singer knew little or nothing regarding the technique of singing, nor did she regard herself as a likely star of the future. It was more of a joke than anything else — in her own estimation — when some friends persuaded her to enter, as a competitor in the South-street (Ballarat) festival, and nobody was more surprised than herself when her voice aroused the keen interest of the adjudicators. The name ‘Wagner’ conveyed nothing to her, and when come of the musicians present predicted that she would one day be a fine Wagnerlan singer Florence Austral was not quite sure whether they were having a joke among themselves at her expense! But within a period of 15 years Florence Austral found her self not only acclaimed as a great

Wagnerian singer, but as the greatest Wagner artist of the present time. Fresh from her triumphs overseas, Austral has now returned to her own country for a six months’ comprehensive tour while her voice is at its loveliest. She hopes to visit at least 40 centres, and to give at least 100 concerts during her stay, for this will be the only chance that she will have for many years of doing a comprehensive tour of the Commonwealth, Booking is now open for her Mackay Concert, with John Amadio and Raymond Lambert, in the Olympic Theatre on Tuesday nigh

Florence Austral Townsville Daily Bulletin (1907 – 1954) Townsville, QLD, 28 May 1935

1938

FLORENCE AUSTRAL IN ENGLAND. Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954) Thu 17 Mar 1938

Music in London. Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) Sat 26 Mar 1938

1946

FLORENCE AUSTRAL AND NEPHEW. The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954)  Wed 7 Aug 1946

florence and nephew

1952

Florence Austral for NewcastleNewcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate (1876 – 1954) 25/04/1952 [About Florence moving to Newcastle and joining the Newcastle Auditorium as a teacher.]

Gown that Austral wore Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954)  Sat 16 Feb 1952

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Reunion By Singers Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) Fri 25 Apr 1952

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Famous Singer Treasures Her Recipes The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954) Wed 14 May 1952

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1953

COOKING ENTHUSIAST Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954)  Tue 10 Mar 1953

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1995

Sad demise of a great soprano Home Newspapers & Gazettes Browse  The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995)  Sat 2 Dec 1995

OTHER SOURCES

Books

Florence Austral – One of the wonder voices of the world. By James Moffat. National Library of Australia (1995).

Where Austral Sang. The Biography of Florence Austral. National Library of Australia (2005)

 

Performances – London Symphony Orchestra

 

YouTube

Footnotes

  1. Thérèse Radic, “Austral, Florence Mary (1892–1968),” Australian Dictionary of Biography, accessed October 23, 2020, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/austral-florence-mary-5084.
  2. Madame Florence Austral: Australia’s Great Dramatic Singer,Table Talk, July 10, 1930, 17,
  3. “Florence Austral,” Manjimup Mail and Jardee-Pemberton-Northcliffe Press, June 06, 1930,
  4. Radic, “Austral.”
  5. “Florence Austral,” Morning Bulletin, May 28, 1935.
  6. “Florence Austral,” May 28, 1935.
  7. Radic, “Austral.”
  8. Radic, “Austral.”
  9. Radic, “Austral.”
  10. Florence Austral in England,Western Mail, March 17, 1938.
  11. “Madame Florence Austral,” 17.
  12. “Madame Florence Austral,” 17.
  13. “Madame Florence Austral,” 17.
  14. “Madame Florence Austral,” 17.
  15. Michael Elphinstone and Wayne Hancock, When Austral Sang: The Biography of Florence Austral (Hyde Park Press: Richmond, South Australia), 103.
  16. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 104.
  17. Patrcia Clarke, “Sad demise of a great soprano,” The Canberra Times, December 02, 1995.
  18. G., “Miss Florence Austral (Fawaz): An Interview with her Parents,” The Australian Musical News 12, no. 4 (1 November 1922): 147-9, quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 133.
  19. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 135.
  20. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral,
  21. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 143.
  22. Maurice Pearton, The LSO at 70: A History of the Orchestra (London: Gollancz, 1974), 64-5, quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 144.
  23. Pearton, LSO, 64-5, quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral,
  24. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 143.
  25. W. Gaisberg, Music on Record (London: Robert Hale, 1946), 130, quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 143-4.
  26. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 208.
  27. Olin Downes, “Florence Austral in Festival Début,” The New York Times, May 8, 1925, quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral,
  28. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 217.
  29. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 226.
  30. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 226.
  31. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 323.
  32. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 323.
  33. “‘Tyranny’ Protest of Singer’s Husband: Ban Kept from Miss Austral,” The Evening Standard (London), September 11, 1929, quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 325.
  34. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 326.
  35. “Prima Donna on Cathedral Ban,” The Daily Express (London), September 12, 1929, quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, 326-7.
  36. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 332.
  37. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 334.
  38. “Florence Austral: Australian Visit,” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 4, 1930, quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 334.
  39. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 367-8.
  40. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 368.
  41. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 369.
  42. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 369.
  43. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 369.
  44. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 369.
  45. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 370.
  46. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 447.
  47. “Madame Florence Austral,” The Telegraph (Brisbane), June 11, 1930.
  48. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 447.
  49. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 482.
  50. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 433.
  51. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 433, 473.
  52. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 442.
  53. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 442.
  54. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 442.
  55. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 442.
  56. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 468.
  57. “The Dramatic Soprano and the Mike,” The Wireless Weekly (Sydney), October 25, 1935, quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 468.
  58. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 515.
  59. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 515.
  60. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 515.
  61. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 515.
  62. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 516.
  63. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 517.
  64. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 517.
  65. “Celebrity Concert,” The Rochdale Observer, August 21, 1943, quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 517.
  66. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 517.
  67. Letter marked ‘Confidential’ from Arthur Mason, Australian Broadcasting Commission, Australia House, London, to Colonel Charles Moses, dated 10 January 1946 (‘Florence Austral’ file, series number SP368/1, National Archives of Australia), quoted in Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 520.
  68. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 521.
  69. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 521.
  70. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 532.
  71. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 532.
  72. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 533.
  73. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 533.
  74. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 536.
  75. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 536.
  76. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 537.
  77. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 537.
  78. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 537.
  79. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 534.
  80. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 534.
  81. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 535.
  82. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 547.
  83. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 547.
  84. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 550.
  85. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 550.
  86. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 550.
  87. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 550.
  88. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 552.
  89. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 552.
  90. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 552.
  91. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 552.
  92. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 552.
  93. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 553.
  94. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 563.
  95. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 562-3.
  96. Elphinstone and Hancock, Austral, 564-5

Many thanks to Ashleigh Miller and Jessica Waugh (volunteers at the GLAMx Lab) for Trove search.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


3 thoughts on ““Florence Austral – Our forgotten Diva”

  1. Well done Hunter Living Histories. Let’s hope Madame Florence Austral will be recognised as one of our own – a Novocastrian. The portrait held at the UoN should be rehung in the Conservatorium and we should celebrate the rehanging with a concert.

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