Sophie Arnould


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Marie Fel (1713—1794)

Rosalie Levasseur (1749—1826)


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(b Paris, 13 Feb 1740; d Paris, 22 Oct 1802). French soprano. A precocious child, she studied Latin and Italian and received a solid general education. Her performance in sacred music impressed the royal family and Mme de Pompadour, and she was appointed to the Opéra, studying declamation with the actress Mlle Clairon and singing with Marie Fel. Her voice was sweet and expressive, not powerful, supported by fine diction and acting. She was the leading Opéra soprano from 1757 (début in Jean-Joseph Mouret's Les amours des dieux) to 1778. She sang over 30 roles, by Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Le devin du village) and others; several she created, but her greatest success was as Telaira in the revival of Rameau's Castor et Pollux (1764). She adapted to Italian-influenced music such as Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny's Aline, and the climax of her career was in Iphigénie en Aulide (1774, at Fontainebleau as late as 1777. Less successful as Eurydice, which she created for the French première of C. W. Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice (1774), she was mortified by Gluck's choice of Rosalie Levasseur for Alceste. The Dorothy Parker of her day, she entertained the philosophes while alienating colleagues; she bore three illegitimate children to the Count of Lauraguais. Her colourful career inspired several biographies, two comedies and an opera by Gabriel Pierné (Sophie Arnould, 1927).

From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Opera.

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