Bel Canto Bully

Philip Eisenbeiss

‘The author’s enthusiasm for his subject is unmistakeable, and the story he tells is extraordinary’
Opera Journal

‘…this entertaining and well-researched book, [is] written by a man clearly brimming with enthusiasm for the bel canto era, the years of Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini.’
The Quarterly Review 


Domenico Barbaja was a gambling magnate and the greatest opera impresario of the 19th century. A rags to riches millionaire, Barbaja was also a serial womaniser, a tireless traveller and an irresistibly charming bully who was at the heart of the bel canto opera period.

Responsible for the emergence of the opera giants Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti, Barbaja also promoted the greatest voices of the era: Isabella Colbran, Maria Malibran, Giuditta Pasta, G.B. Rubini and Luigi Lablache.

Skilfully navigating through the changing political powers of his day – Napoleon, the Neapolitan Bourbons and the Austrian Hasburgs – Barbaja established an empire that stretched from Naples to Milan and Vienna, and had an irrevocable impact on opera as we know it today.

PHILIP EISENBEISS has been living in Hong Kong for the past 20 years working as a banker and financial headhunter. He started his career in journalism and trained as an opera singer, a career he wisely abandoned. He holds degree in history and international relations from Columbia Univeristy.

Follow Philip on Twitter @OperaHunter

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