Other comparable theatrical databases, notably that of the Comédie-Française, draw on theatre records and account books that provide precise information about performances after they have taken place. Unfortunately, such records no longer 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 previously announced performance was postponed. In our records, we provide what we understand to be the correct performance date and include a note with details of the original proposed date. All newspaper references pertaining to that performance are provided, including the first one announcing the wrong date.
Inconsistencies and Uncertainties
It should also be noted that the information provided in the Affiches américaines and the other newspapers on which we draw sometimes contains factual mistakes, omissions and inconsistencies. These relate both to core information about individual works (their title, the name of the author or composer and so on) and to information about their performance in Saint-Domingue. Where we can be (almost) 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 absolutely every detail that provided in the database. More frequently, however, we have had to add information that is 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, three different works with that title were performed in Saint-Domingue: sometimes there is a clue in the source that indicates which one it is; sometimes our knowledge of theatre history can rule different options in or out; at other times, however, we have had to include two, or occasionally three, options with cautionary question marks for each. Where there is scope for significant doubt regarding an attribution, we have also indicated this with a cautionary question mark. Similarly, where there is scope for doubt regarding other information such as a performance date (as is the case for a performance announced for 31 February or on a Saturday that was not in fact 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 relevant 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. Our sources are very free – as well as inconsistent – in their 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 case in point because it was (and is still) used by some in a very broad sense and by others in a much more restricted sense. While we have chosen to link (almost) every work with one theatrical genre, there are many 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 the titles of all our works, but personal 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. 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 in the years to come.
AA: Affiches américaines
AC: Avis du Cap [Supplément aux Affiches américaines]
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 [Affiches américaines]
SAA: Supplément aux Affiches américaines
SGdSD: Supplément à la Gazette de Saint-Domingue