Operatic soprano Isabella Girardeau was born Isabella Calliari (according to Charles Burney), but nothing is known of her early life or education. She was most likely married to a Frenchman and arrived in London in late 1709, making her stage debut as Celinda in the world premiere of Giovanni Bononcini’s Almahide on 10 January 1710.
Known to opera lovers as ‘La Isabella’ she ceated a sensation in the role of Almirena in Handel’s Rinaldo, premiered on 24 February 1711 at the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket, in which she introduced the famous aria ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’. It was the composer’s first opera written for the London stage.
It was also the first Italian language opera written specifically for the English theatre. Having succeeded Joanna Maria Lindelheim (known as ‘The Baroness’) as the one of the theatre’s leading sopranos, she fought a bitter battle for supremacy with Elisabetta Pilotti-Schiavonetti, another prima donna at the same theatre. Her last performances in London were recorded in 1712. Her activities or whereabouts beyond that year are unknown.