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Barberina, La

The International Encyclopedia of Dance

Karl Heinz Taubert

Barberina, La 

(Barbara Campanini; born 1721 in Parma, Italy, died 7 June 1799 in Barschau, Silesia), Italian dancer.

Campanini studied ballet at the Teatro Farnese with Antonio Rinaldi (known as Fossano), who imparted to her a brilliant technique and knowledge of pantomime. In 1739, she and Fossano went to Paris and were hired by the Paris Opera. There, her virtuosity (she was noted for performing entrechat huit) fascinated composer Jean-Philippe Rameau, who created four solo dances for her debut in his opéra-ballet Les Fêtes d'Hébé in 1739. Her pas de deux with Fossano, laced with burlesque mime, was considered enchanting. Richly rewarded performances followed at the court of Louis XV, as did leading roles in other new opéra-ballets of 1739: Rameau's Dardanus and Louis Dupré's production of Joseph Royer's Zaïde, Reine de Granade, which also featured Marie Sallé. Campanini's success led to Sallé's retirement. People began to refer to her as La Barberina and called her “the Flying Goddess.”

La Barberina's beauty and charm attracted many admirers. Prince de Carignan, director of the Opera, made her his principal mistress, and he was followed by other highly placed admirers. For the 1740/41 season, John Rich brought her to London, where she shone in solo parts and in dances with famous partners, at court, at Lincoln's Inn Fields, and at Covent Garden. She appeared in a pantomime-ballet, Mars and Venus, and performed minuets and various dances, including “Tambourine,” “The Italian Peasants,” and “Tyrolean Dance.” In 1741 and 1742 she danced in Paris and London and at the Dublin Festival. Her Terpsichore in Les Fêtes Grècques et Romaines caused the Parisian poet Filandre to sigh, “O incomparably beautiful Barberina, Cupid and the Graces may envy you.”

Frederick the Great of Prussia saw Barberina in Paris and hired her to appear in the spring of 1744 at his Berlin Opera House, but she formed a liaison with Lord Stuart Mackenzie, and the couple fled to Venice to evade the Berlin contract. The Prussian king acted through diplomatic channels, and Barberina was brought to Berlin under military guard; she made her first appearance there on 13 May 1744. She was the unchallenged favorite of the Berlin stage until 1748, in a company that also included Jean-Barthélemy Lany, his sisters Louise-Madeleine and Charlotte, Jean-Georges Noverre, Pietro Sodi, and Marianne Cochois. The king allowed Barberina to set her own price—seven thousand reichstalers a year (Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the court harpsichordist, was paid three hundred reichstalers), plus five months vacation—but all contingent on her remaining unmarried.

Barberina's palace became a gathering place for the king, the nobility, and the diplomatic corps. From 1744 to 1748, she danced in a long succession of operas by Karl Heinrich Graun or by Johann Adolf Hasse. In 1748, however, she fell out of favor when Charles-Louis de Cocceji, the son of the king's chancellor, knelt at her feet on the stage and asked her to marry him. She accepted, and the king ordered her dismissed. She went to England, but in 1749 she returned to Germany and became betrothed to Cocceji, whose father considered the liaison a disgrace. The couple tried to flee, but the future husband was imprisoned for eighteen months. They married in secret, and Cocceji, a high government official, was exiled to Glogau (now Głogów), in Silesia. Barberina was forced to sell her palace in Berlin. In 1759 the couple separated; they were divorced in 1788.

Barberina purchased the Silesian castle and estate of Barschau and other properties and proved to be an outstanding administrator. The year after her divorce, in 1789, she requested that King Frederick bestow the title Countess Campanini on her; in return, she offered her castle as a charitable institution for impoverished young noblewomen. The king instead named her Countess von Barschau, and she became director of the foundation. She was given a priceless jeweled coat of arms as her letters patent; decorated with pearls and diamonds, it showed dancing cranes and the motto “Virtuti Asilum” (Haven for Virtue). She died there, but her foundation remained in existence until World War I.


Dall'Ongaro, Giuseppe. La Barberina. Novara, 1987.Find this resource:

    Heidrich, Ingeborg. Wie sie gross wurden. Stuttgart, 1959.Find this resource:

      MacCormack, Gilson B. La Barberina: A Forgotten ‘Star’ of the Eighteenth Century. The Dancing Times (December 1930):261–265.Find this resource:

        Migel, Parmenia. The Ballerinas: From the Court of Louis XIV to Pavlova. New York, 1972.Find this resource:

          Moore, Lillian. The Adventures of La Barberina. Dance Magazine (December 1958):68–69, 116–117.Find this resource:

            Olivier, Jean-Jacques, and Willy Norbert. La Barberina Campanini. Paris, 1910.Find this resource:

              Winter, Marian Hannah. The Pre-Romantic Ballet. London, 1974.Find this resource:

                Karl Heinz Taubert

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