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Barbaia or Barbaja, Domenico

Barbaia or Barbaja, Domenico, celebrated Italian impresario; b. Milan, 1778?; d. Posillipo, near Naples, Oct. 19, 1841. He worked as a scullion in local cafes and bars, and is reputed to have been the inventor of barbaiate or granita di caffè, a concoction of coffee or chocolate with whipped cream. In 1808 he obtained the lease of the gambling tables in the foyer of Milan’s La Scala, and in 1809 also secured the position of manager of all the royal opera houses in Naples. He became so influential that he was dubbed the “Viceroy of Naples.” From 1821 to 1828 he was manager of Vienna’s Kàrnthnertortheater and Theater an der Wien, and from 1826 to 1832 of Milan’s La Scala. In 1811 he engaged Isabella Colbran as a singer in Naples, and she became his mistress only to leave him to marry Rossini in 1822. All the same, he remained a champion of Rossini. Among the other composers he championed were Mercadente, Pacini, Bellini, and Donizetti. Barbaia appears as a character in Auber’s opera La sirène (1844) and was the inspiration for Emil Lucka’s novel Der Impresario (Vienna, 1937).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Barbaia or Barbaja, Domenico

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