Beaumarchais in Seville: An Intermezzo by Hugh Thomas

By Hugh Thomas

In 1764-65 the irrepressible playwright Beaumarchais traveled to Madrid, the place he immersed himself within the lifestyles and society of the day. encouraged via the areas he had noticeable and the folks he had met, Beaumarchais lower back domestic to create The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro, performs that grew to become the root for the operas via Rossini and Mozart that proceed to thrill audiences this day. This ebook is a full of life and unique account of Beaumarchais’s stopover at to Madrid (he by no means went to Seville) and a new edition of the society that fired his imagination.
Drawing on Beaumarchais’s letters and commentaries, translated into English for the 1st time, Hugh Thomas investigates the complete diversity of the playwright’s actions in Madrid. He focuses specific awareness on brief plays that Beaumarchais attended and during which he used to be most likely motivated, and he probes the inspirations for such widely known characters because the barber-valet Figaro, the lordly count number Almaviva, and the attractive yet deceived Rosine. no longer neglecting Beaumarchais’s many different goals (ranging from an pastime to realize a freelance for promoting African slaves to an try to position his mistress as a secret agent within the mattress of King Charles III), Lord Thomas offers a hugely interesting view of an important second in Madrid’s background and within the inventive lifetime of the lively Beaumarchais.

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Clavijo seemed to be interested in everything. Basically an encyclopaedist, in the enlightened French sense of that word, his purpose was to introduce a species of English 21 A Letter from Madrid moralism to Spain. ” Clavijo rarely wrote of politics. He would make a minute criticism of such things as bullfighting that, like the king, he disliked. A typical article by him described how a modern Diogenes with his lantern once approached the gilded carriage of an aristocrat. He looked inside and saw—certainly not a human being: “The entire body of this animal was covered in gold paint.

Then he dined (alone) and set out to hunt at twelve. At seven in the evening he had a light supper wherever he was, and, at eight, he returned home to the palace, often so tired that he fell asleep before he undressed. ” He added: “One became used to this ugliness because of his air of benevolence and the simple and natural good manners which accompanied it and which he had instead of grace. ” Beaumarchais met the king later and found him “a limited man isolated by his general mistrust and tormented above all by that fear of being dominated which is such a powerful emotion with weak spirits, and which left everyone who approached him lacking in any power to make decisions.

Dogs and even pigs 45 Clavijo wandered freely. Cleaning was still confined to the so-called marea, a word which would usually be translated “the tide”: at night a group of carts fitted with low revolving beams would scoop up the heavier rubbish. Torchbearers would precede them, and a group of men would follow with brooms. This “pestiferous procession” caused much dust, and distress, especially to returning partygoers. Beaumarchais’s first impression of the city is unclear, except that he thought the sky wonderful.

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