Work: La gazza ladra: Overture
About This Work
The overture to La gazza ladra (The Magpie Thief, 1817) is a staple of the curtain-raiser slot in symphonic concerts. It is chock-full of the colorful orchestral strokes that populate the whole group of Rossini overtures, beginning a pair of side
drum rolls at the very start that add military color and are just long enough to seem a bit ominous. They introduce an opera, designated a melodramma, that shades comic elements with darker overtones; the plot deals with a servant girl accused of stealing some silverware with which the magpie of the title has actually absconded for its nest. Seemingly lightweight, the opera was rooted in a true story in which a young woman was actually put to death for the bird's "crime," a story that Rossini's audience would have known well.
Indeed the overture itself neatly melds episodic color with the weightier drama of symphonic sonata form. It features a parade of effects and lovely themes, including an especially famous one introduced by an oboe, that anticipate the characters and action to come, and then, following a spectacular crescendo, reworks several of these themes in a mini-development section. The La gazza ladra overture is atypical in its thematic links to the opera to follow; Rossini, one of music's great adherents of the reuse-and-recycle school, often made the same overture do service for two (or even more) operas at this early stage in his career. The special care he took with this one shows not just in the links between overture and staged scenes, but in the vividness and excitement of the whole.
-- All Music Guide
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