A French courtier, secret agent, libertine and adventurer, Beaumarchais (1732-99) was also author of two sparkling plays about the scoundrelly valet Figaro - triumphant successes that were used as the basis of operas by Mozart and Rossini. A highly engaging comedy of intrigue, The Barber of Seville portrays the resourceful Figaro foiling a jealous old man's attempts to keep his beautiful ward from her lover. And The Marriage of Figaro - condemned by Louis XVI for its daring satire of nobility and privilege - depicts a master and servant set in opposition by their desire for the same woman. With characteristic lightness of touch, Beaumarchais created an audacious farce of disguise and mistaken identity that balances wit, frivolity and seriousness in equal measure.
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was born in Paris in 1732. The son of a clockmaker, he was early appointed to horologist ot the French court, where a rich marriage established his fortunes. Having had a career as financial speculator, confidential agent and gun-runner, he became a man of letters. His most famous works, The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro, formed the basis of the operas by Rossini and Mozart. He died in 1799. John Wood was a producer of plays and a translator, with a particular interest in Moliere.