Fétis attributes the air to Eustache Du Caurroy, maître de chapelle to Charles IX, Henri III, and Henri IV; but the music of that 'Prince of musicians,' as Mersennus calls him, is so imbued with science, not to say pedantry, that it is impossible to suppose the author of the contrapuntal exercises in his 'Mélanges' to have had anything in common with the composer of so simple and natural a melody. Its origin is undoubtedly secular; and there is the more reason to believe it to have been borrowed from an air already popular that the words 'Cruelle départie, Malheureux jour' occur in the 'Chansons sur les airs mondains.' In the book of cantiques entitled 'La pieuse Alouette avec son tirelire' (1619) we find a proof that the church borrowed the air and prevailing idea of this song from the world, rather than the reverse, for the religious refrain,
Douce vierge Marie,
Otez-moi ou la vie,
Ou bien l'emoi,
is obviously founded on the love-song of 1597.
Such is all the positive information we have been able to obtain about 'Charmante Gabrielle'; but the mystery which surrounds its origin rather increases than diminishes the attraction of this celebrated song.
, born at Rome Nov. 12, 1730, daughter of Prince Gabrielli's cook, one of the most beautiful, accomplished, and capricious singers that ever lived. At the age of 14, the Prince, walking in his garden, heard her singing a difficult song of Galuppi, sent for her, and after listening to her performance, promised her his protection and a musical education. She was placed first under Garcia, lo Spagnoletto
, and afterwards under Porpora. A great success attended her début (1747) as prima donna, at Lucca, in Galuppi's 'Sofonisba.' Guadagni gave her some valuable instruction in the style in which he himself excelled, the pure and correct cantabile. This she was therefore now enabled to add to her own, which was the perfection of brilliant bravura, with a marvellous power of rapid execution and an exquisitely delicate quality of tone. At other theatres in Italy she met with equal success, singing in 1750, at Naples, in Jomelli's 'Didone,' after which she went to Vienna. Here she finished her declamatory style under the teaching of Metastasio, and fascinated Francis I, who went to the Opera only on her nights. Metastasio is said to have been not indifferent to the charms of this extraordinary singer, still known as la Cochetta
, in memory of her origin; but she did not respond. Her capricious treatment of her numerous adorers gave rise to hundreds of stories, among which one may be quoted. By this it appears that the ambassadors of France and Portugal were both desperately enamoured of her at Vienna. The former, concealing himself in her apartments, saw enough to confirm his suspicions, and rushed upon her with his sword, with which he would doubtless have transfixed her, had not the busk of her boddice turned aside the point of the blade. She pardoned the Frenchman, who had thrown himself on his knees before her, on condition of her retaining his sword, on which she determined to have the words engraved, Épée de M. ... qui osa frapper la Gabrielli
, &c.; but Metastasio prevailed upon her to give up this design. In 1765 she quitted Vienna, laden with wealth, and went to Sicily, where she excited the same furore, and exhibited the same caprices. She was imprisoned by the King, because she would not sing her part in the opera above a whisper. During the twelve days of her imprisonment, she gave sumptuous entertainments, paid the debts of poor prisoners, and distributed alms in profusion. Each evening she assembled the other inmates of the gaol, to whom she sang her favourite songs in the most painstaking manner. The King was obliged to set her free, and her reputation with the public stood higher than ever. In 1767 she went to Parma, where the Infant Don Philip fell madly in love with her, and persecuted her so far as sometimes to shut her up in a room of which he kept the key. Terrible scenes occurred between them, and she called him on one occasion gobbo maledetto
. Having escaped from Parma in 1768 she went to Russia, where she astonished Catherine II. by demanding 5000 ducats as salary, a sum, as the Empress objected, larger than the pay of a field-marshal; to which Gabrielli simply replied, 'Then let your field-marshals sing for you'—as Caffarelli
once replied in similar circumstances. She appeared in London in the season of 1775–6. Burney says of her that 'she had no indications of low birth in her countenance or deportment, which had all the grace and dignity of a Roman matron." The public here was prejudiced against her by the stories current of her caprice; and she only remained during one season
. Burney extols the precision and accuracy of her execution and intonation, and the thrilling quality of her voice. She appeared to him 'the most intelligent and best bred virtuosa with whom he had ever conversed, not only on the subject of music, but on every subject concerning which a well-educated female, who had seen the world, might be expected to have information.' She sang with Pacchierotti at Venice in 1777, and at Milan in 1780 with Marchesi, with whom she divided the public into two parties. After this, Gabrielli retired to Rome with her sister Francesca, who had followed her everywhere as seconda donna, and lived upon her savings, which amounted to no more than 12,000 francs per annum. She died in April 1796 of a neglected cold. A beautiful little portrait of her in mezzotint, now very rare, was engraved by D. Martin in 1766 from a painting by Pompeo Battoni.
GABUSSI, Vincenzo, composer and teacher of singing, born at Bologna early in the present
- ↑ Fétis is mistaken in saying that she never came to England, and in the whole of his explanation of her reasons for refusing engagements in London. He also erroneously calls her sister Anna.