Other comparable theatrical databases, notably that of the Comédie-Française, draw on theatre records and account books that provide information about performances after they have taken place. Unfortunately, such records do not exist for Saint-Domingue and so this database draws instead on information about performances before they have taken place. It is not, then, a database of performances but rather a database of scheduled performances. From time to time, a subsequent announcement in the same newspaper indicates that a performance was postponed or, very occasionally, cancelled. Since our database aims to provide, to the best of our knowledge, a record of probable performances, we have omitted performances that we know were postponed (but include details of all the announcements relating to the performance on the record card for the day when we believe it did take place). Users of the database will need to bear this in mind when considering the information provided in the separate announcements listed on the record card for a particular day and the conclusions that we have drawn from reading all those announcements together.
Caution in negotiating the information provided, both in the source and in the database, is advised in other regards too. The primary reason for this is the fact that the information provided in the Affiches américaines and the other newspapers on which we draw is riddled with mistakes and inconsistencies. These relate both to core information about individual works (title, number of acts, authors and so on) and to information about their performance in Saint-Domingue. Where we can be reasonably certain that the information in the source has been recorded or printed incorrectly, we have provided the correct information in the database. Users should not be surprised, then, to find that the information in the source does not always match in every detail that provided in the source. Nor should they be surprised to find the source change its mind about some of these details. More frequently, however, we have had to add information that is simply missing from the source in order to identify lesser-known works or works with multiple possible attributions. In the case of Annette et Lubin, for instance, there are three different works with that title that appear to have been performed in Saint-Domingue: sometimes there is a clue in the source that indicates which one it is; in the absence of such clues and drawing on our knowledge of theatre history (one version was only written later in the period under consideration), we have sometimes included two or three options with cautionary question marks. Indeed, where there is scope for significant doubt regarding any attribution, we have indicated this with a question mark. Similarly, where there is scope for doubt regarding other information such as a performance date (as for performances announced for 31 February or on a Saturday that was not a Saturday), we have suggested likely alternatives but with question marks to indicate a degree of uncertainty. Very occasionally we have been unable to attribute a work or to provide further core information about it. In these instances, the fields have been left blank.
We have indicated a theatrical genre for the majority of the works included in the database, but these are intended as a rough guide only and should also be approached with due caution. The source is very free in its use of generic distinctions and even modern scholars do not always agree about how to classify many of our works, particularly those involving both singing and speech. The term opéra-comique is a notable case in point because it is used by some in a very broad sense and by others in a more restricted sense. While we have chosen to link (almost) every work with one theatrical genre, there are some works that might plausibly be categorized in several different ways. In particular, users searching for musical works via the ‘search by genre’ function are advised to undertake several searches in order to be sure that they have covered all possibilities.
Spelling is another potential source of confusion. We have regularized the spelling of titles, but names are more of a challenge. Where we are reasonably sure that two different spellings are of the same name, these have been regularized, but sometimes doubt can remain. While we can be sure, unless there is other evidence to suggest the contrary, that names as close as Dulac and Dulacq or Dulacq and Dutacq are one and the same, can the same be said, by extension, of Dulac and Dutacq? In such instances, users have been left to decide for themselves. It is hoped that future research will resolve some of these issues and that we can continue to enhance and expand our knowledge of this extraordinary portion of theatre history.
AA: Affiches américaines
AC: Avis du Cap
AC/SAA: Avis du Cap/Supplément aux Affiches américaines
ADPAA: Avis divers et petites affiches américaines
CPLCF: Courrier politique et littéraire du Cap-Français
GdSD: Gazette de Saint-Domingue
JGdSD: Journal général de Saint-Domingue
MC: Moniteur colonial
ND: Nouvelles diverses
SAA: Supplément aux Affiches américaines
SGdSD: Supplément à la Gazette de Saint-Domingue