Le Barbier de Séville, ou La Précaution Inutile

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Le Barbier de Séville, ou La Précaution Inutile ("The Barber of Seville or the Useless Precaution") is a comedy in four acts by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (usually referred to simply as "Beaumarchais", 1732-1799)[1], with original music by Antoine-Laurent Baudron (1742–1834)[2].

(The texts of the Beaumarchais play and the popular Rossini opera based on it, are both often referred to simply as Le Barbier de Seville, Barbier de Seville, or The Barber of Seville)

The original text

Conceived as a opéra comique[3] and written in 1772, rewritten as a four act play in 1773. It was the first of a trilogy of plays entitled Le Roman de la Famille Almaviva, with the others being La Folle Journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro[4] (1778) and L'Autre Tartuffe ou La Mère coupable (1792)[5].

First performed in Paris on 23 and 25 February, 1775 at the Comédie-Française and was published by Ruault, Paris, in the same year.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into Dutch as De Barbier van Seville, of De Onnutte Voorzorg, published in 1793.

It was twice adapted into an opera:

Il Barbiere di Siviglia, ovvero La Precauzione Inutile by Paisiello (1782).

Il Barbiere di Siviglia[6] by Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868) with an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini (1784–1831). The première of Rossini's opera, under the title Almaviva, o sia L'inutile precauzione, was on 20 February 1816 at the Teatro Argentina, Rome.

Performance history of the play in South Africa

1783: According to travel-writer Le Vaillant (cited by Fletcher, 1994: p. 18) a good production of Beaumarchais's play was done in French in the Cape in 1783. Performed (wholly or in part) in the Cape Town Barracks Theatre during the occupation by French troops sent to defend the Cape against the British Fleet (1781-1795), it was possibly the first production by them and it counts as one of the first documented performances in South Africa.

1804: Performed in the African Theatre by Het Fransche Liefhebbery Geselschap, a new French company, amalgamated with the ordinary French Theatre-lovers in the Cape, under the leadership of C.M. Villet on Saturday 2 April, repeated on 30 April - this time with the addition of Arlequin Afficheur (Desfountaines and Barré).

1824: Performed in Dutch as De Barbier van Seville, of De Onnutte Voorzorg, on 31 July in the African Theatre by the amateur company Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense, apparently with the overture of Rossini's opera and other music provided by Charles Etienne Boniface. It was accompanied by the one act play Jérome Pointu by Beaunoir (but wrongly accredited to "D'Orvigny" by F.C.L. Bosman, 1928: p. 279; or by his source).

1847: A "laughing pantomime[7]" called Barbier de Seville (sic) was performed in Buitekant Street, Cape Town by The Italian Circus of Signor Severo and Signor Dalle Case.

Performance history of Rossini's opera in South Africa

1893-4: The Rossini opera performed by the Lyric Opera Company of A. Bonamici and Edgar Perkins in the Opera House, Cape Town.

1903: The Rossini opera performed in the Good Hope Theatre, Cape Town, by the Italian Opera Company of Miss Capellaro and Mr Deneri, under the management of the Wheeler Theatre Company.

1929: Staged by the University of Cape Town's South African College of Music at the Opera House in Parliament Street, conducted by William Pickerill, and starring Guiseppe Paganelli.

1933: Presented by African Consolidated Theatres at the Alhambra Theatre, conducted by John Connell.

1962: Presented by The National Opera Association of South Africa.

1967: Presented by PACOFS Opera.

1969: Presented by the EOAN Group; presented by NAPAC Opera.

1970: Presented by NAPAC Opera.

1974: Presented by CAPAB Opera.

1974/1975: Presented by the EOAN Group.

1975: Presented by PACT Opera.

1976: Presented by PACT Opera; presented by CAPAB Opera.

1979: Presented by PACOFS Opera.

1987: Presented by CAPAB Opera (24 January – 14 February).

1992: Presented by CAPAB Opera (29 April – 10 May).

2002: Presented by Cape Town Opera (12–20 September).

2005: A reduced version presented in the Drama at the State Theatre by Black Tie Ensemble in a double bill with Gianni Schicchi (April 2005). Conductor - Graham Scott; Director - Leonard Prinsloo; Assistant director - Vanessa Nicolau; Décor - Colin O'Mara Davis; Costumes co-ordinator - Bronwen Lovegrove; Lighting - Declan Randall; Repetitors - Susan Steenkamp-Swanepoel and Engeli le Roux; Barber script - Leonard Prinsloo; Stage manager - Eugéne Prinsloo; Orchestra - Johannesburg Music Initiative; Concert master - Irene Tsoniff. With the following cast: Tobie Cronjé (The Narrator), Jonathan Boinamo (Figaro), Khotso Tsekeletsa (Count Almaviva), Linda Zitha (Dr Bartolo), Teresa de Wit (Rosina), Paul Madibeng (Don Basilio), Loveline Madumo (Berta), Dikgang Mantoro, Thabiso Masemene, Rheinaldt Moagi, Obakeng Molepe, Thabang Senekal, Itumeleng Tladi (Soldiers), Michael Dungelo (Notary).

2013: Presented by Cape Town Opera (20–24 November).



Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg: pp. 18, 32


D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [8]: pp. 29, 31, 89-90, 110, 279-80, 434



Wayne Muller. 2018. A reception history of opera in Cape Town: Tracing the development of a distinctly South African operatic aesthetic (1985–2015). Unpublished PhD thesis.

Sjoerd Alkema. 2012. "Conductors of the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra, 1914-1965: a historical perspective". University of Cape Town. Unpublished PhD thesis.

Alexandra Xenia Sabina Mossolow. 2003. The career of South African soprano Nellie du Toit, born 1929. Unpublished Masters thesis. University of Stellenbosch.

Antoinette Johanna Olivier. 2014. 'Exploring contributions to opera by The Black Tie Ensemble: a historical case study'. Mini-dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master‟s in Music at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University.

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