Great Opera Vocalists – Madeleine Sophie Arnould

This famous actress and singer, and the original Iphigenie in Gluck’s opera of “Iphigenie en Aulide,” was born in Paris, February 14, 1744, in the same room in the Rue de Bethisy in which Admiral Coligny was murdered, August 24, 1572. The Princess of Modena, having heard the child sing in the church of Val de Grace, was so charmed that she recommended her to the royal intendant of music. Against the will of her mother, Sophie became a member of the Chapelle Royale, and was taught comedy by Mlle. Hippolyte Clairon, and singing by Mlle. Tel. l’Iadame de Pompadour on one occasion was so much struck by the young artist that she characteristically said, “With such talents you may become a princess.” She made her debut on December 15, 1757, and remained on the stage till 1778, the most admired artist of the Paris Opera. In that year she left the boards and retired to private life. Arnould was not less renowned for her wit and power of conversation than for her ability as a singer and actor. A volume of table-talk, called “Arnouldiana,” contains a host of her caustic and witty speeches. At her house was long maintained a salon frequented by many per sons of prominence. Her fame as an artist rests very largely on her connection with the operas of Gluck. She appeared with great success in the “Orphee” and “Alceste” as well as “Iphigenie.” In Gluck’s subsequent works her place was taken by a Mlle. Levasseur. Her acting was quite as much admired as her singing, and Gluck’s new ideas found in her an able interpreter. She died in 1803.