Les bavards (English: The Chatterboxes) is an opéra bouffe, or operetta, by Jacques Offenbach, with a French libretto by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter based on "Los dos habladores", a story by Miguel de Cervantes.[1]

Jacques Offenbach by Nadar, c. 1860s

Performance history


Les bavards was originally created as Bavard et bavarde in one-act form and performed at the Kurtheater, Bad Ems in June 1862.[2] It became Die Schwätzerin von Saragossa for Vienna in November of that year,[1] and was produced in its final two-act form at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Paris (Salle Choiseul) on 20 February 1863, with Delphine Ugalde as Roland, Thompson as Inès, Tostée as Béatrix and Étienne Pradeau as Sarmiento, conducted by Offenbach.[3] It entered the repertoire of the Paris Opéra Comique on 3 May 1924 conducted by Maurice Frigara, produced by Albert Carré, with Germaine Gallois as Roland and Marguerite Roger as Béatrix.[3]

It was recorded (as Pratkvarnen) on Swedish television in 1981 with Britt Marie Aruhn and Enzo Florimo among the principals.[4]

A critical edition has been published as part of the Offenbach Edition Keck (OEK), and the work is still occasionally performed.[2]


Role Voice type Premiere cast,
Bad Ems, 11 June 1862
Revised version cast,
Paris, 20 February 1863
(Conductor: Jacques Offenbach)
Roland contralto Delphine Ugalde Delphine Ugalde
Sarmiento bass Étienne Pradeau Étienne Pradeau
Béatrix, Sarmiento's wife soprano Lucille Tostée Lucille Tostée
Inès, their niece soprano Thompson
Pedro, servant of Sarmiento spoken role Luigi Walter
Cristobal, the alcade bass Désiré Désiré
Torribo, his scrivener tenor Édouard
Catalinon, a cigar merchant, creditor soprano
Torbisco, a barber, creditor soprano
Bernadillo, a muleteer, creditor soprano
Barocal, a shoemaker, creditor soprano
Chorus: creditors and neighbours


Time: 17th century
Place: Zaragoza - in front of, and in the courtyard of Sarmiento’s house

Act 1


Roland, a penniless young poet, is trying to escape from his various creditors and succeeds in hiding from them; he finds himself outside Sarmiento's house.
He has fallen in love with Inès, the niece of Sarmiento, a wealthy man kept busy counting his money, who is wearied by his talkative wife Béatrix. Going out, Sarmiento meets his wife coming home, talking continuously, who launches into a song about her good character, then leaves again, still talking. Next the alcade Cristobal, also a chatterbox, passes by, sympathizing with Sarmiento's lot.
As Sarmiento returns to go back into his house, Roland comes out from his hiding place and decides to take advantage of the situation. He begins a long recitation of his woes and in the ensuing duet agrees to get Béatrix to stay quiet (hoping also to be in close proximity to his beloved Inès). Sarmiento asks him to come to dinner once he has found better clothes; as Roland's creditors appear again he rushes off dragging Sarmiento with him. The creditors go off to find Roland while Cristobal and Torribo doze off guarding the front door. Sarmiento and Roland, now finely dressed, return and enter the house.

Act 2


The scene opens with Béatrix bemoaning her lot. As she and Inès prepare to set the table Sarmiento enters with Roland and the young man is introduced to the women. Roland immediately starts talking non-stop and Béatrix is taken aback. Even when they sit down to eat Roland's babbling continues without a break. Sarmiento tells Béatrix, overcome by their guest's volubility, that Roland is to stay for seven years.
Under the guise of finally settling Sarmiento's dispute, Cristobal and Torribio are admitted and, after being given false information by Roland on ‘his’ whereabouts, depart with Sarmiento. To get Béatrix's approval for him to wed Inès, Roland reveals to Béatrix what he had agreed with her husband. To revenge herself on Sarmiento, she pretends in dumb-show that she has exchanged billets-doux with Roland. Sarmiento, bewildered by everyone behaving as if they are struck dumb and jealous because of the supposed love letters, is happy to learn that the real object of the exchange of letters is Inès.
The alcade and creditors arrive with a message from Roland promising that Sarmiento will pay off his debts. Sarmiento is forced to agree and gives his approval to the marriage. All celebrate the settlement of all their problems.




  1. ^ a b Lamb A. Jacques Offenbach (work list). In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan, London and New York, 1997.
  2. ^ a b "Offenbach - Les bavards (OEK critical edition)". Boosey & Hawkes. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
  3. ^ a b Wolff S. Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique (1900-1950). André Bonne, Paris, 1953.
  4. ^ Swedish Media Database (SMDB) Accessed 4 August 2012