Florence Easton

Florence (Gertrude) Easton. Soprano, b Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, Eng, 25 Oct 1882, d New York 13 Aug 1955, buried in Montreal. The Easton family moved to Toronto ca 1888, and the young Florence sang in the choir of Parkdale Methodist Church, where her father was choirmaster and her mother organist.

Easton, Florence

Florence (Gertrude) Easton. Soprano, b Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, Eng, 25 Oct 1882, d New York 13 Aug 1955, buried in Montreal. The Easton family moved to Toronto ca 1888, and the young Florence sang in the choir of Parkdale Methodist Church, where her father was choirmaster and her mother organist. After her mother's death the family returned to England, where Florence attended the RAM 1900-1. She studied in Paris the following year with Elliott Haslam. During her debut season 1902-3 with the Moody-Manners Opera, she met the tenor Francis MacLennan (1874-1935), who had been raised in Collingwood, Ont. They were married in 1904 and together toured North America 1905-7 with the Savage English Grand Opera, with which Easton is known to have sung Butterfly in England and Norina (Don Pasquale) in Toronto in April 1907, as well as other leading roles. She and MacLennan also sang three performances of Madama Butterfly at the opening of the Walker Theatre in Winnipeg in 1907.

Easton was prima donna 1907-13 at the Hofoper, Berlin, 1913-16 at the Hamburg Opera, and 1916-17 at the Chicago Opera. She also sang Serpina in the North American premiere (1917) of La Serva Padrona with the Society of American Singers, made her Metropolitan Opera debut 7 Dec 1917 as Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, and went on to enjoy success, during 12 consecutive seasons there, in a wide variety of roles, including Carmen, La Gioconda, Elsa, Tosca, Isolde, Turandot, Fiordiligi, and the Marschallin. In the early years of this period she sang Butterfly (1919) and Tosca (1920) with the Scotti Grand Opera in its Montreal appearances. During these years, too, she sang in several premieres, notably Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, Deems Taylor's The King's Henchman, and Edward W. Naylor's The Angelus. She was Fiordiligi in the first US performance of Così fan tutte, 24 Mar 1922 at the Metropolitan Opera, and sang in the first US performance of Krenek's Jonny spielt auf.

In the early 1920s Easton re-studied as a dramatic soprano with the famous voice coach Anna Schoen-René. In the 1930s she sang often in England, at Covent Garden, and with other companies. During her career she is said to have sung 150 roles. In 1936 with her second husband, businessman Stanley Rogers, she moved to New York, where she continued to sing - her appearances including one at the Metropolitan Opera that year.

Teaching Career

In the late 1930s, she began teaching at the Juilliard School. She retired from Juilliard in 1943, gave a farewell recital in Town Hall, New York, 6 Dec 1943, and ca 1944 moved with her husband to Montreal, where she taught privately for a few years. She returned to New York in 1950 and there taught a very few pupils during her last years. Among her pupils, in the USA and Canada, were the English tenor Arthur Carron, the US soprano Nadine Conner, and the baritone John Stratton.

Recordings

Easton made a large number of records for Aeolian-Vocalion 1918-20, for Brunswick 1921-8, for Edison in 1928, and for HMV in the late 1920s and early 1930s. For HMV she recorded the final scene of Siegfried with Lauritz Melchior in 1932 and songs with Gerald Moore in 1933. Several privately made recordings of 1937-42 have been circulated. Stratton has issued a collection of arias on the Cantilena LP 6234, and his article in The Record Collector includes an Easton discography. Not included in the discography are LPs on Rubini (GV-520), the International Record Club (IRCC L-7023, 7026, 7029, 7031), Belcantodisc (BC-243), Unique Opera (UORC-372), a cassette on Crest (CC-72), and CDs on Danacord (3-DACOCD-319-21), Music Memoria (30283, 30285), Complete Record Co. (CDGSE 785072, 785073), Symposium (CD1296), Marston (52033-2), and Analekta (AN 2 7801). All contain reissued songs and arias.


Further Reading

  • Florence Easton, 'The open door to opera,' Great Singers on the Art of Singing, ed. James F. Cook (Philadelphia 1921)

    'A talk with Florence Easton,' Musical Canada, Dec 1920

    Thompson, Oscar. 'Florence Easton,' American Singer (New York 1937)

    Matz, Mary Jane. 'First ladies of the Puccini premieres: Florence Easton,' Opera News, 13 Jan 1968

    Stratton, John R. 'Florence Easton,' Record Collector, Jan 1974

    McLean, Eric. "Grand tradition," Opera Canada, Summer 1993