This is the third in a series of publicity shots from the early years of the recording business that our friends at the EMI Archive Trust have made available to us. This photo is of Florence Austral who was an Australian soprano who lived between 1892 and 1968. She changed from her original name of Florence Mary Wilson to Florence Austral to reflect her nationality and probably took the lead of Helen Porter Mitchell who became the biggest singing star in the world at the turn of the twentieth century as Nellie Melba named after her home Australian city of Melbourne.
She is clearly an enthusiastic participant in the promo process, as you can see…
We award her 4/5 for her PR efforts. A wonderful picture from around 1925.
Melba was a fan of her younger compatriot, calling Florence’s voice “one of the wonder voices of the world”. Fred Gaisberg signed her to the HMV label where she made over a hundred recordings in the 1920’s and described her thus “In the early twenties Florence Austral was the most important recording artist we had, thanks to the beauty, power and compass of her voice” Here is an example of her singing.
Sadly Florence’s career was to end badly. She suffered terribly from multiple sclerosis and was forced to retire from singing in 1940 and return to Australia six years later when almost completely paralysed by the illness. Upon returning home, Florence lost many of her possessions in a fire. Royalty earnings from her recordings had declined, too, by this point and, finding herself in need of an income, she taught singing at the Newcastle Conservatorium (now part of the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia) from 1954 until her retirement in 1959.
You can see earlier photo’s in this series of publicity shots:
#1 Gluck & Homer
If you have been affected by any of the content included in this post please don’t hesitate to get in touch with The EMI Archive Trust who will be happy to talk to you about this picture and the rest of their wonderful collection.