TOPAZE was created in Berlin before being performed by André Lefaur in Paris in 1928. The play was shown in the same breath in Milan, Copenhagen, Belgrade, Prague, Amsterdam, Budapest, Odessa, Moscow and Zagreb. In Paris, it was as successful as Cyrano de Bergerac had been in 1897.
First performance at Théâtre des Variétés (1928).
Main initial performersAndré Lefaur - Topaze
Topaze and his friend Tamise are both teachers in a boarding school, directed by a man who only cares about pleasing his pupils' wealthy parents. Yet, this is just what Topaze fails to do in refusing to give a good mark to an undeserving student. He is dismissed and finds himself forced to offer his services as a visiting teacher, which leads him to end up at Suzy Courtois', the mistress of a politician with questionable ethics and who offers him a position as a secretary. Despite his naivety, he soon discovers the actual nature of his employer's business and becomes aware of the role of man of straw he has been hired to play. Gradually, he begins to operate transactions for his own profit, unbeknownst to his employer who realizes it when it is too late: Topaze has outperformed and supplanted him thanks to the scope of his brainwaves. Now a very wealthy and powerful man, Topaze deems the ethics he used to teach now rather outdated. The good Tamise, feeling his own beliefs disturbed, will also come close to go over to the other side.
...To succeed in life, that is to access a position that you deserve, what do you have to do?
PUPIL TRONCHE, thinks deeply.
You have to be careful.
Yes, if you like. You have to...
Be careful about what?
PUPIL TRONCHE, decisive.
About air drafts.
Everybody laughs in the classroom.
TOPAZE, he strikes little quick knocks on his desk to restore silence.
Pupil Tronche, what you just said is not entirely absurd for you repeated an advice given by Mrs. your mother, but you did not reach the very heart of the issue. To succeed in life, you have to be... You have to be?
(Pupil Tronche is horribly streaming with sweat, several other pupils raise their hands to answer, saying: "Sir, Sir...".
Topaze rejects the offers.)
Let the one I am questioning reply. Pupil Tronche, your last mark was an E. Try to improve it... You have to be ho... ho...
The whole classroom is waiting for Pupil Tronche's answer. Topaze bends towards him.
PUPIL TRONCHE, confused.
General burst of laughter and music box tune.
E, sit down. (He writes E down.) You have to be honest.