Austral, Florence

Australian soprano, 1894 - 1968

Biographical notes:

Born at Richmond, her real name was Mary Wilson, but she was also known by that of her stepfather, Fawaz, before she adopted her familiar professional name. Although her family was not musical, her voice was early appreciated, and she studied singing and piano at the Melbourne Conservatory. In 1914 she won first prizes in both the soprano and mezzo categories at a singing contest in Ballarat, obtaining a scholarship which enabled her to continue her studies with Elise Wiedermann. Her first public appearance was as Leonora in Fidelio. The director of the conservatory recommended her to go to America for further studies where she received vocal tuition by Gabriele Sibella in New York. Her progress was great and she was soon offered a contract with the Metropolitan Opera which she turned down. Florence auditioned for Harry Higgins, Chairman of the Covent Garden Syndicate, and she was immediately engaged at Covent Garden. In 1922 she appeared with the British National Opera Company as Brünnhilde in the complete Ring cycle, and this role was to remain her most famous one. She sang Isolde and Aida with the same company. Her Aida was hailed as “one of the most notable in recent years.” Florence Austral pursued her career at Covent Garden where she broadened her operatic repertoire. She was also an accomplished concert soloist and appeared at a number of festivals. In the mid 1920s a severe reverse to her career set in, for she developed multiple sclerosis. Her opera career was soon over. She was obliged  to devote herself to recital work for the rest of her life, although this continued to present a good deal of operatic material. In 1925 she married the Australian virtuoso flautist John Amadio, and toured widely with him in America and Australia. In 1946 she returned to Australia and died, almost completely paralysed, in Newcastle near Sydney in 1968.


As Brünnhilde


“The Waters of the Rhine seem to mount high, and over all rides the triumphant voice of Florence Austral as Brünnhilde. Her singing can justly be called queenly. Even after hearing the glorious singing of Frida Leider on other records, Austral’s triumphant voice remains in the mind.”

Neville Cardus, Manchester Guardian, 1928



“In the early twenties Florence Austral was the most important recording artist we had, thanks to the beauty, power and compass of her voice.”

Fred Gaisberg - Florence Austral recorded exclusively for HMV (now EMI)



Recital (Arias by Wagner, Mozart, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn)


Recital (Arias by Mozart, Weber, Wagner, Verdi, Spohr. Soprano solo from Brahms’ German Requiem. Inflammatus from Rossini’s Stabat mater. Three songs)

Preiser - LV

Stars of English Opera Vol. 4


Stars of English Oratorio Vol. 1


Wagner Singing on Record


Der Ring des Nibelungen/Excerpts - “Potted” Ring


Mike Richter’s Opera Page: The Record of Singing Vol. 3



As Tosca


Florence Austral was without doubt one of the great dramatic sopranos of the 20th century. At Covent Garden, however, she experienced strong competition in Frida Leider , who became an admired artist there. Although Austral had a thrilling voice, but she could not compete with Leider’s excellent acting...

Her versatility was remarkable. She made 102 (!) recordings, but only a few have been released. She recorded opera arias as well as songs, oratorios and sang in superb duets opposite Feodor Chaliapin, Miguel Fleta, Tudor Davies and Walter Widdop.

Charles Haynes wrote: ”For sheer vocal quality, she had few equals until Kirsten Flagstad came upon the scene... while her low notes were firm and rich, the top of her voice was clear and ringing... as an instrument in Wagner’s orchestral pattern she was of the highest quality, a vocal phenomenon that does not happen very often.”

In my opinion, Florence Austral belong to the singers who deserves to be much better known nowadays.


My favorite recordings:

- Zu neuen Taten with Tudor Davies (Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung / Wagner / HMV 1922)

- Act 2 (abridged) with Tudor Davies (Isolde in Tristan und Isolde / Wagner / HMV 1923)

- Pressago il core della tua condanna with Miguel Fleta and Edna Thornton (Aida / Verdi / HMV 1923)

 Hear ye, Israel (Elijah / Mendelssohn / HMV 1925)

- Siegmund, höre mich with Walter Widdop (Brünnhilde in Die Walküre / Wagner / HMV 1926)

- Porgi amor (the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro / Mozart / HMV 1927)

- Schweigt eures Jammers with Göta Ljungberg (Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung / Wagner / HMV 1927)

- Ozean! Du Ungeheuer! sung in English   (Rezia in Oberon / Weber / HMV 1928)

- Inflammatus (Stabat mater / Rossini / HMV 1928)

- Jo-ho-ho-he! sung in English (Senta in The Flying Dutchman / Wagner / HMV 1928)

Ihr habt nur Traurigkeit sung in English   (German Requiem / Soprano solo / HMV 1928)