La gazza ladra

La gazza ladra
"The Thieving Magpie" redirects here. For the Marillion album of the same name see The Thieving Magpie (album)

La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) is a melodramma or opera semiseria in two acts by Gioachino Rossini. The libretto was by Giovanni Gherardini after La pie voleuse by JMT Badouin d'Aubigny and Louis-Charles Caigniez.

The opera is best known for its overture, which is notable for its use of snare drums.

Rossini was famous for his writing speed, and La gazza ladra was no exception. It was reported that the producer had to lock Rossini in a room the day before the first performance in order to write the overture. Rossini then threw each sheet out of the window to his copyists, who wrote out the full orchestral parts.


Performance history

It was first performed on 31 May 1817 at La Scala, Milan. The opera was revised by Rossini for subsequent productions in Pesaro in 1818, and for the Teatro del Fondo (Naples) in 1819 and the Teatro di San Carlo (Naples) in 1820. He again worked on the music in Paris in 1866.

Riccardo Zandonai made his own version of the opera for a revival in Pesaro in 1941. Alberto Zedda edited Rossini's original work for publication by the Fondazione Rossini in 1979.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, May 31, 1817
(Conductor: Alessandro Rolla)
Ninetta, Fabrizio’s servant soprano Teresa Belloc-Giorgi
Fabrizio Vingradito, a rich farmer bass Vincenzo Botticelli
Lucia, his wife mezzo-soprano Marietta Castiglioni
Giannetto, his son, a soldier tenor Savino Monelli
Fernando Villabella, Ninetta’s father, a soldier bass-baritone Filippo Galli
Gottardo, village mayor bass Antonio Ambrosi
Pippo, a young peasant, employed by Fabrizio contralto Teresa Gallianis
Giorgio, servant to the mayor bass Paolo Rosignoli
Isacco, a pedlar tenor Francesco Biscottini
Antonio, the gaoler tenor Francesco Biscottini
Ernesto, a soldier, friend of Fernando bass Alessandro De Angeli


Act 1

At the house of Fabrizio Vingradito and his wife Lucia there is joy for the imminent return of their son Giannetto from the war. One of the servants, Ninetta, is in love with Giannetto and all want the two to marry except Lucia, who blames Ninetta over the recent loss of a silver fork. Isacco, a local pedlar, enters and asks about Ninetta, but Pippo sends him away. Giannetto arrives and goes inside with Lucia while Ninetta prepares for the party. Once they have gone, Ninetta’s father, Fernando Villabella arrives, also from the war. However he has been sentenced after fighting with his captain, and, condemned to death, is now a deserter. He asks his daughter to sell two pieces of family silver to go towards his expenses while he is on the run. The Mayor enters, intent on seducing Ninetta. She claims that her father is just some vagrant. The Mayor’s assistant delivers the arrest warrant for a deserter (Fernando), but as the Mayor has forgotten his reading glasses, Ninetta is asked to read the warrant, and makes up a description of someone totally unlike her father. The Mayor continues to force his attentions on Ninetta, at which Fernando, in anger, almost reveals himself. The three leave, and a magpie flies down and steals one of Lucia’s silver spoons.

Isacco passes by again, and Ninetta sells him the silver her father had entrusted to her. Giannetto and others return, and Lucia notices that a spoon is missing. The Mayor starts an immediate investigation, stating the draconian penalty for domestic theft: death. Lucia and the Mayor accuse Ninetta, who in her distress drops the money she had exchanged from Isacco. The pedlar is brought back and reports that he has already sold on the spoon, but he recalls an inscription F.V. (Fernando’s initials) on them. The stunned Ninetta, desperate to protect her father, is unable to refute the accusations, and the Mayor orders her to be arrested.

Act 2

Antonio, the prison warder takes pity on Ninetta and says that he will get a message to Pippo, and let Giannetto visit her. Ninetta convinces Giannetto that she is innocent. The Mayor now arrives and tells Ninetta that if she accepts his advances he will get her freed – she replies that she would rather die. The Mayor is called away but Antonio has heard all and offers to help Ninetta any way he can. Ninetta asks Pippo to sell a gold cross and put some money for her father in an agreed hiding place - a chestnut tree. Ninetta is brought to trial, found guilty, and condemned to death. Fernando rushes to the court to save his daughter’s life, but is too late; he too is sent to prison, while she is condemned to death.

Ernesto, a military friend of Fernando bursts in looking for the Mayor, and holding a royal pardon for Ninetta’s father. Pippo shows him the way and is given a silver coin for helping, but the magpie snatches it and flies up to the tower. Pippo and Antonio pursue the thief.

Ninetta is taken to the scaffold, and makes her final speech to the crowd. From the tower, Pippo and Antonio cry out that they’ve found Lucia’s silver in the magpie’s nest and they ring the bells. The crowd hear their words and hope to save Ninetta, but shots ring out and they conclude they are too late. However, Ninetta appears walking down the hill – the shots were mere rejoicing. Ninetta celebrates with her companions but is worried about her father. He then appears with Ernesto and all – except the Mayor – enjoy a happy ending.


The most famous aria in the opera is probably Ninetta's prayer "Deh, tu reggi in tal momento". The soprano cavatina "Di piacer mi balza cor" and the tenor cavatina "Vieni fra queste braccia" (the cabaletta for the duet between Arturo and Elvira from Bellini's I Puritani starts with exactly the same words) are two examples of Rossini's brilliant vocal writing.


Year Cast:
Ninetta, Fabrizio, Lucia, Giannetto, Fernando
Opera House and Orchestra
Label [1]
1987 Ileana Cotrubas,
Carlos Feller,
Nucci Condò,
David Kuebler,
Brent Ellis
Bruno Bartoletti,
Gürzenich Orchester Köln and the Kölner Oper Chorus
DVD: ArtHaus Musik
Cat: 102 203
1998 Cinzia Forte,
Franco Vassallo,
Linda Tirendi,
Simon Edwards,
Natale de Carolis
Giancarlo Andretta,
Teatro la Fenice di Venezia Orchestra and Chorus
Recording of a performance in Venice, 31 January)
Audio CD: Mondo Musica
Cat: MFOH 20111
2007 Mariola Cantarero,
Paolo Bordogna,
Kleopatra Papatheologou,
Dmitry Korchak,
Alex Esposito
Lü Jia,
Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento
(Video recording made at performances of the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, August)
DVD: Dynamic,
Cat: 33567



External links

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