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Domenico Barbaia (sometimes spelled Barbaja; 1778 - October 16, 1841) was an Italian impresario.

An energetic man, Barbaia, who was born in Milan, began his career by running a coffee shop. He made his first fortune by creating (or at least taking the credit for creating) a special kind of coffee with frothing milk, probably the first "cappuccino." This drink, and a variation with hot chocolate, became so popular in Milan that the erstwhile waiter was able to open a string of coffee houses in the city that all featured his novel concoction.

Barbaia made his second fortune by buying and selling munitions during the Napoleonic wars. By 1809 he was successful enough to take over the Teatro San Carlo in Naples; he ran the theater until 1824. From 1821 he was also the manager of two theaters in Vienna, the Theater am Kärntnertor and the Theater an der Wien. In 1826 he took over the running of La Scala before returning to Naples.

Among the works he commissioned were operas by Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini, and Carl Maria von Weber. In 1815, he offered Gioacchino Rossini a contract lasting seven seasons, and the composer obliged with ten operas, including Otello, Armida, Mosè in Egitto, Ermione, La donna del lago and Maometto II. Among the singers in Barbaia's company for whom Rossini wrote a number of roles during this period were the tenors Giovanni David and Andrea Nozzari, the bass Michele Benedetti and the great mezzo-soprano Isabella Colbran. The latter was Barbaia's lover for a time; eventually, though, she left him for Rossini.

He died in Posillipo in 1841.


  • David Ewen, Encyclopedia of the Opera.
  • Osborne, Richard (1986). Rossini. London: Dent. ISBN 0-460-03179-1.  


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