« Bella Donna »

Sublime woman, deadly flower

The Bella Donna, an idealized and coveted woman, is praised in the tradition of courtly love. She is also the sublime, poisonous and deadly flower. An engaging fruit, with a sweet taste but a violent poison, belladonna is well known to witches for the preparation of their hallucinogenic ointments. What more appropriate metaphor could there be to illustrate the ambiguity of the female figure in the medieval imagination? 

Exploring the linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe of the 13th and 14th centuries, this transversal programme reveals a mosaic of fascinating female figures. Thus, the secular songs performed here paint complex psychological portraits. By their actions or their or crimes, these women overturn the world order. 

The spiritual repertoire also gives us fascinating female characters. The means of expression summoned are similar, whether it is to sing the love of the beloved woman in the tradition of courtly lyric or the praises of the Virgin in the famous Cantigas de Santa María. 

Temperance, Charm, Torment: On the thread of these female figures, music discovers various styles of writing. Starting from a canso de trobairitz (the female alter ego of the troubadour), the works progress through monodies and polyphonies of the 13th and 14th centuries.

1st part : Temperance

Comtessa de Dia (fin XIIe-déb. XIIIe s.)A chantar m’er de so qu’eu no volria [canso]6’45
Bernart de Ventadorn (c. 1130/40-c. 1190/1200)Can l’erba fresch’ [instrumental]  
AnonymeSanta Maria leva Cantiga de Santa María, n° 3204’
Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-1377)Honte, paour, doubtance de meffaire [ballade]  8’
AnonymePièce sans titre, f. 49 v. [instrumental] Codex Faenza (déb. xve s.), Faenza – Biblioteca Comunale, MS 1171’40
Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474)La belle se siet au piet de la tour  2’36

2nd part : Charm

AnonymeSanta Maria amar Cantiga de Santa María, n° 75’18
AnonymeAve Maris Stella Codex Faenza1’40
AnonymeMedée fu en amer veritable [ballade] Codex Chantilly (fin. XIVe/déb. XVe s.), Chantilly – Musée Condé, MS 5648’

3d part : Torment

Guillaume de MachautPhyton, le merveilleus serpent [ballade]  8’10
AnonymeO Crudel Donna [madrigal] Codex Rossi (c. 1370), Roma – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Rossi 2152’45
AnonymeHa, Fortune, trop as vers moy grant tort [ballade] Codex Chantilly3’35
AnonymeIsabella [estampie – instrumental] London – British Library, Add. 29987 (c. 1400)7’10