The Thieving Magpie was the second of three operas Rossini completed in 1817, and it received its first performance in May at La Scala, Milan.
The opera may be described as a melodrama cum comedy, and the long cast list includes a talking magpie, whose utterances initiate the plot whereby a serving girl is accused of stealing a silver spoon and whose cause isn’t helped by her father being accused, in his turn, of desertion from the army. Happily, by the final curtain all has been resolved.
The overture opens with a three bar side drum roll (Rossini’s original score required a drummer to be placed on each side of the stage). What follows may be regarded as a synthesis of the ensuing plot. The opening maestoso marziale in 4/4 leads into the 3/4 allegro, whose principal theme is taken directly from a duet in Act II.
This overture, which is a brilliant orchestral tour-de-force, was composed by Rossini especially for the opera, whereas on other occasions he made do with “secondhand” pieces.