EXCLUSIVE: Paris-based sales agent to launch new film loosely inspired by “world’s worst soprano”, Florence Foster Jenkins.

Memento Films International will launch French Xavier Giannoli’s upcoming Marguerite, starring Catherine Frot as an aspiring opera singer with a terrible voice, at the Toronto International Film Festival (Sept 4-14).

The French-language, period drama - set against the backdrop of 1920s Paris - revolves around Marguerite Dumont, a wealthy chatelaine devoted to music, who loves to sing to her guests.

None of her friends or hangers-on dare tell Marguerite she has a dreadful voice and when a journalist mischievously gives one of her private recitals a rave review she decides to give her first public concert.

Ignoring her husband’s protests, she enlists the help of a former diva and starts training for the big night.

The tale is loosely inspired by American Florence Foster Jenkins, a real opera singer known as the “diva of din” who was renowned in the 1930s and 40s for her terrible voice.

Frot, who was seen recently in the well-travelled Haute Cuisine about the real-life friendship between late French president Francois Mitterrand and his cook, will star as Marguerite.

It is the sixth feature for Giannoli, who competed in Venice in 2012 with his last film Superstar and has also been in competition at the Cannes Film Festival twice: Quand j’etais chanteur in 2006; and In The Beginning in 2009.

“Giannoli counts among France’s most talented filmmakers, he creates with each film a palpable atmosphere, his stories are relevant, just and inspiring,” said MFI sales chief Tanja Meissner.

“Marguerite is a fascinating character which Catherine Frot will incarnate with her usual quirkiness but also sweetness. The script offers a wonderful array of emotions, from laughter to tears, which we are excited to bring to Toronto,” she added.

Paris production powerhouse Fidélité Films is due to start shooting for 49 days in the Czech Republic in September for a springtime delivery.

MFI will have a script available in Toronto.

Prague-based Sirena Film, which worked on A Royal Affair, is co-producing alongside Belgium’s Scope Pictures. 

Glynn Speeckaer, who worked on Me, Myself and Mum, A Perfect Plan and The Source, is attached as director of photography.

Other crew include Emmy Award-winning costume designer Pierre Jean Laroque and production designer Martin Kurel, who recently worked on Susanne Bier’s Serena.

MFI’s Toronto sales slate will also include TIFF screeners Still Alice, starring Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart and set for a world premiere at the festival, and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep.