Gabrielli’s closing years were spent at Bologna, where she won the esteem and admiration of all by her charities and steadiness of life, a notable contrast to the license and extravagance of her earlier career. She died in 1796, at the age of sixty-six.
The French Stage as seen by Rousseau.—Intellectual Ferment of the Period.—Sophie Arnould, the Queen of the most Brilliant of Paris Salons.—Her Early Life and Connection with Comte de Lauraguais.—Her Reputation as the Wittiest Woman of the Age.—Art Association with the Great German Composer, Gluck.—The Rivalries and Dissensions of the Period.—Sophie’s Rivals and Contemporaries, Madame St. Huberty, the Vestrises Father and Son, Madelaine Guimard.—Opera during the Revolution.—The Closing Days of Sophie Arnould’s Life.—Lord Mount Edgcumbe’s Opinion of her as an Artist.
Rousseau, a man of decidedly musical organization, and who wrote so brilliantly on the subject of the art he loved (but who cared more for music than he did for truth and honor, as he showed by stealing the music of two operas, “Pygmalion” and “Le Devin du Village,” and passing it off for his own), has given us some very racy descriptions of French opera in the latter part of the eighteenth century in his “Dictionnaire Musicale,” in his “Lettre sur la Musique Francaise,” and, above all, in the “Nouvelle Heloise.” In the mouth of Saint Preux, the hero of the latter novel, he puts some very animated sketches:
“The opera at Paris passes for the most pompous, the most voluptuous, the most admirable spectacle that human art has ever invented. It is, say its admirers, the most superb monument of the magnificence of Louis XIV. Here you may dispute about anything except music and the opera; on these topics alone it is dangerous not to dissemble. French music, too, is defended by a very vigorous inquisition, and the first thing indicated is a warning to strangers who visit this country that all foreigners admit there is nothing so fine as the grand opera at Paris. The fact is, discreet people hold their tongues and laugh in their sleeves. It must, however, be conceded that not only all the marvels of nature, but many other marvels much greater, which no one has ever seen, are represented at great cost at this theatre; and certainly Pope must have alluded to it when he describes a stage on which were seen gods, hobgoblins, monsters, kings, shepherds, fairies, fury, joy, fire, a jig, a battle, and a ball.*...