Ysabella (trobairitz)

Ysabel or Ysabella (poss. b. c. 1180[1]) was a 13th-century trobairitz. Almost nothing is known about her with certainty, but many conjectures have been put forward. She has been identified with:

Ysabella is mentioned three times in the verses of Elias Cairel.[7] "Estat ai dos ans" is addressed a ma dona Ysabelh (to my lady Ysabel).[8] The tornada of "Mout mi platz lo doutz temps d'abril" contains the line Don'Izabel, ma chanso prezen: to Lady Isabel, my love song.[8] "Pois chai la fuoilla del garric" also mentions ma dona Izabel.[5] Elias travelled to Greece in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade (12021204) and was in Thessalonica, at the court of Boniface, by 1207. By 1215 he was back in Italy, where he remained until 1225. It is possible that he met Isabella either in Greece or in Italy, if she was a relative of Boniface or the Pellavicini.

Ysabella composed one tenso, "N'Elyas Cairel, de l'amor", with Elias that survives. Early in the study of the trobairitz, it was commonly supposed that some of the more obscure women, like Ysabella, who are named as interlocutors with male counterparts, were not in fact real women, but rather fictions created by the troubadours for the sake of creating intersexual tensos. Ysabella was one such victim, though her existence is now presumed.[9] Her tenso has been translated into English (Bogin), French (Pierre Bec), and German (Oskar Schultz and, more recently, Angelica Rieger).

The situation of the composition of the tenso between Elias and Ysabella has been a matter of dispute. One recent editor of Elias' corpus, Giosuè Lachin, believes the tenso was composed in Greece in 1204.[5] The Old French song "L'autrier avint en chel autre païs", by the trouvère Conon de Béthune, whom Elias knew, has many thematic similarities with the tenso of Ysabella, though they are metrically dissimilar.[5] Interesting for the purposes of determining the tenso's provenience is the mention in line 40 of lo patriarch'Iuan ("the patriarch John"), a possible reference to Patriarch John X of Constantinople (11991206).[2]

The tenso opens with Ysabella recalling with fondness the days of her and Elias' former love.[1] The factualness of their relationship is usually accepted and Elias is considered to have courted Ysabella, either in Aquitaine,[10] Greece, or Italy. Whatever the historical background, Ysabella and Elias are clearly no longer in a relationship when their dialogue begins, and Elias places the blame for their falling apart on her.[11] This precipitates a spate of verbal assaults that eventually end in Elias' admission of uncourtliness and their reconciliation, with Ysabella offering to help him win over his new lady and he politely declining to share her name.[11] This basic structure can be viewed as a deviation in the middle stanzas from the norms of courtly love (with Ysabella insulting instead of flattering her lover and he taking another love despite her continued affection) and a subsequent return to the norm in the closing stanzas.[12] Recently, Catherine Ganiere, by analysing the use of negations by the interlocutors, has argued that Ysabella was more concerned with her inner feelings (of being loved), while Elias was more concerned with outward appearances, i.e. courtly behaviours, social standing, etc.[13]

In 2011, Canadian composer Serouj Kradjian's work "Trobairitz Ysabella" was premiered by soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Anne Manson.


External links


  1. 1 2 Bogin, pp. 11011.
  2. 1 2 Bruckner et al., pp. 16566.
  3. Bertoni, pp. 13031.
  4. 1 2 Bogin, pp. 17374.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Lachin, here.
  6. Ganiere, p. 18, deduces this from her tenso with Elias, also from Périgord.
  7. Sometimes found as La tenzo de dona Ysabella e d'En Elyas Cairel.
  8. 1 2 Riquer, pp. 14445.
  9. Bruckner, "Fictions of the Female Voice", p. 132.
  10. Ganiere, p. 23.
  11. 1 2 Ganiere, pp. 25.
  12. Ganiere, pp. 2932.
  13. Ganiere, pp. 2628.
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