Overture to The Thieving Magpie (La Gazza Ladra) (1817)
Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
Rossini had completed all of his 37 operas by the time he was 37. 34 of them were written over 14 years, a feat that belies his notorious laziness. As Rossini himself wrote: “I wrote the overture to The Thieving Magpie on the day of its opening, in the theatre itself, where I was imprisoned by the director and under the surveillance of four stage hands, who were instructed to throw my original text through the window, page by page, to the copyists waiting below . . . In default of pages, they were ordered to throw me out of the window.” The Thieving Magpie is based on a true story: a French servant girl was tried and executed for theft. Later the townspeople discovered a magpie was the real thief and, remorseful, they instituted an annual mass in her memory. In the opera, the real culprit is discovered at the last minute and the servant girl is reprieved. Listening to this ebullient overture, it is easy to see how Rossini’s method of building crescendos by adding instruments as the same motif is repeated earned him the nickname “Signor Crescendo”.
Performed: Nov 2003, Sep 2010, May/June 2016