La gazza ladra

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Work data
Title: The thieving magpie
Original title: La gazza ladra
Title page of the libretto, Milan 1817

Title page of the libretto, Milan 1817

Shape: Opera semiseria in two acts
Original language: Italian
Music: Gioachino Rossini
Libretto : Giovanni Gherardini
Literary source: La Pie voleuse, ou la Servante de Palaiseau by Louis-Charles Caigniez and Jean-Marie-Théodore Baudouin d'Aubigny
Premiere: May 31, 1817
Place of premiere: Milan, Teatro alla Scala
Playing time: about 3 hours
Place and time of the action: A large village near Paris, early 19th century
  • Fabrizio Vingradito, rich tenant ( bass )
  • Lucia Vingradito, his wife ( mezzo-soprano )
  • Giannetto, son of Vingraditos, soldier ( tenor )
  • Ninetta, Fabrizio's maid (soprano)
  • Fernando Villabella, father of Ninetta, soldier (bass)
  • Gottardo, Mayor / Podestà (bass)
  • Pippo, farm boy in the service of Fabrizio ( old )
  • Isacco, dealer (tenor)
  • Antonio, jailer (tenor)
  • Giorgio, servant of the Podestà (bass)
  • Ernesto, soldier, friend of Fernando Villabella
  • Magistrate (bass)
  • Gregorio, clerk (bass)

La gazza ladra ( The Thieving Magpie ) is an opera semiseria (original name: "Melodramma") in two acts by Gioachino Rossini with a libretto by Giovanni Gherardini . The first performance took place on May 31, 1817 in the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.


The place of the action is a village near Paris at the time of the Napoleonic counter-revolution at the beginning of the 19th century.

The tenant Fabrizio Vingradito and his wife Lucia prepare a celebration for the return of their son Giannetto. Ninetta, the maid, is also awaiting the return of her lover Giannetto and that of her father Fernando, who is wanted in a wanted list. When Ninetta reads the profile to the Podestà Gottardo, she forges the identity of the deserter while reading it. Fernando had sent his daughter Ninetta a silver spoon that she should turn into money. That's why she sells the spoon to the dealer Isacco. She is falsely accused of theft after Lucia discovered the loss of a silver spoon. The Podestà has the accused locked in a dungeon. You face the death penalty .

Fernando wants to free Ninetta at the risk of his life, whereas Giannetto urges her to reveal the truth. But Ninetta remains indomitable. She turns to Pippo, who is supposed to sell her property in favor of Fernando. The court sentenced Ninetta to death. She is being led to execution. A magpie steals a gold piece from Pippo. In her nest he can then find not only the coin, but also the silver spoon from the Fabrizio household. At the last moment, proof of innocence can prevent the execution and Ninetta can be rehabilitated . Fernando is also pardoned by royal decree.

first act

Wide courtyard in Fabrizio's house.

In front a rural gate with an arbor; on a pillar an open birdcage with a magpie. In the background towards the middle a barred gate as an entrance to the courtyard. Some hills in the distance

Scene 1. The tenant Fabrizio Vingradito and his wife Lucia prepare a celebration for their son Giannetto, who will return home as a war hero (introduction: “Oh, che giorno fortunato!”). Service people carry dishes, groceries and wine from the house. The farm boy Pippo is annoyed by the magpie that called his name. A little later, when the talk arises that Giannetto should take a wife, she calls out the name of the maid Ninetta. Fabrizio tries to caress the magpie, but is bitten by it. Lucia and Fabrizio withdraw to make further preparations.

Scene 2. Ninetta arrives with a basket full of strawberries. She looks forward to the return of her lover Giannetto and her father Fernando (Cavatine: "Di piacer mi balza il cor"). Fabrizio returns from the garden with fruit. Lucia brings a basket of cutlery and tells Ninetta to take good care of it, as a fork has already been lost. Lucia and Fabrizio leave again. Ninetta closes the gate and enters the house.

Scene 3. The dealer Isacco appears with his general store to advertise various things (Cavatine: “Stringhe e ferri da calzette”). Pippo sends him away.

Scene 4. Ninetta returns with flowers to decorate the table. Rural music and the greetings of the country folk for Giannetto can be heard in the distance (choir: “Ma qual suono! / Viva! Viva!”). Pippo runs into the house to call the servants.

Scene 5. Giannetto appears with the country folk. Pippo comes back with the staff. Giannetto and Ninetta fall into each other's arms (Cavatine Giannetto: “Vieni fra queste braccia”). Wine is distributed and everyone toasts to each other (Brindisi: “Tocchiamo, beviamo”). Then the country folk depart. Giannetto, Fabrizio and Lucia make their way to Giannetto's uncle.

Scene 6. Meanwhile, Ninetta's father Fernando approaches cautiously. He tells his daughter that he is wanted (recitative "Ieri, sul tramontar del sole"). His Rittmeister had refused him the vacation he had requested. Then it came to an argument. He had drawn his sword in anger, but was disarmed and thereupon sentenced to death. He only managed to escape with the help of friends. Ninetta and Fernando lament his cruel fate (duet: “Come frenar il pianto”). At that moment they notice the Podestà (Mayor) Gottardo. Fernando wraps himself in his coat and sits down in the farthest corner of the table. Ninetta sets out to clear the table.

Scene 7. As he approaches, the Podestà praises his love for Ninetta and his plan to win her over (Cavatine “Il mio piano è preparato”). After greeting her, Ninetta introduces him to her father as a poor wanderer. He pretends to be asleep, but watches everything very closely. The Podestà makes a few awkward approaches to Ninetta.

Scene 8. Giorgio, a servant of the Podestà, brings him a letter from the clerk Gregorio.

Scene 9. The Podestà opens the letter, but cannot find his glasses. Meanwhile, Fernando gives his daughter some silver cutlery that she should sell for him in order to get money for his escape. She should hide the money in a chestnut tree. Since the Podestà cannot decipher the letter without glasses, he asks Ninetta to read it out. She realizes that it is her father's profile and forges his description while reading (scene: “M'affretto di mandarvi i contrassegni”). The Podestà lets Fernando, who he suspects, get up. Since he does not match the description, he sends him away. Fernando hides behind a door pillar, accompanied by the gaze of Ninetta (trio: "Oh nume benefico"). The Podestà courted her again, but got a rebuff. Fernando emerges again to insult him angrily. The Podestà swears revenge and leaves the courtyard. Fernando is also on his way. While Ninetta looks after him, the magpie comes to the table, steals a spoon and flies away.

Ground floor room in Fabrizio's house

Scene 10. While Pippo and Ninetta are doing housework, Isacco the dealer returns. Ninetta sends Pippo outside to bring in the bird cage. Meanwhile, she sells Isacco her father's cutlery.

Scene 11. To Pippo's questions, Ninetta replies that she needed money and therefore sold a few small items. Pippo leaves.

Scene 12. Ninetta makes her way to the chestnut tree to deposit the money there.

Scene 13. Lucia has intercepted Ninetta and leads her back to the house. The Podestà, the clerk and Giannetto also enter. Lucia introduces her son to the Podestà. Then she lets Ninetta give her the cutlery basket and counts the contents. In fact, a spoon is missing again. Giannetto instructs Pippo to look for the fork outside. Fabrizio doesn't want to allow a trial in his home. Lucia, however, suspects Ninetta, and the Podestà points out that house theft carries the death penalty.

Scene 14. Pippo returns unsuccessfully. The Podestà assumes that it is actually a case of theft. While everyone is wondering who the thief could have been, the magpie calls out the name "Ninetta". The Podestà now has the facts recorded (Finale I: “In casa di Messere”). He enjoys this opportunity to take revenge on Ninetta like this. When it also emerges that the wanted person is her father, Ninetta can no longer hold back her tears. She pulls out her handkerchief to dry her eyes. The money received from Isacco falls to the ground. Pippo reveals that she received it from Isacco for selling some items.

Scene 15. Isacco is brought in and asked about the items that have been bought. He can no longer show them because he has already resold them. He only remembers that it was a fork and a spoon with the initials "F" and "V". All are appalled by the unambiguity of the evidence (Tutti: “Mi sento opprimere”). Only the Podestà triumphs over the power it has gained over Ninetta.

Scene 16. Gregorio comes with gendarmes to arrest Ninetta. At the same time, the country folk and the family members of Fabrizio appear. Ninetta and Giannetto say goodbye in fear until they are forcibly separated. Ninetta is taken away.

Second act

Prison vestibule in the courthouse

Scene 1. The compassionate jailer Antonio allows Ninetta to exit the prison.

Scene 2. Ninetta asks Antonio to bring Pippo to her. But first, Giannetto asks to be admitted.

Scene 3. Giannetto urges Ninetta to prove her innocence and tell the whole truth. However, she fears that this will endanger her father (duet: “Forse un dì conoscerete”).

Scene 4. Antonio warns of the imminent arrival of the Podestà. Giannetto leaves while Ninetta returns to prison.

Scene 5. The Podestà calls for Ninetta. He promises her to release her if she lets him kiss her (aria: “Sì per voi, pupille amate”). Ninetta firmly refuses. The choir appears to collect the Podestà for the court session. Drums announce the opening of the court. The Podestà and the choir move to the courtroom.

Scene 6. Antonio noticed that the Podestà is not behaving as it should. Pippo arrives. Ninetta asks him to sell her jewelry cross and take the money to the old chestnut. He should also give Giannetto her ring. Pippo promises to put the money there. But he wants to keep the cross himself in her memory (recitative: “Deh, pensa che domani” - duet: “E ben, per mia memoria”).

Ground floor room in Fabrizio's house

Scene 7. Lucia feels sorry for Ninetta (scene: “Infelice Ninetta!”).

Scene 8. When Fernando shows up, Lucia tells him about his daughter's arrest. Fernando is horrified. He wants to do everything to save her (aria: “Accusata di furto”).


Alessandro Sanquirico: stage set for the courtroom, Teatro alla Scala 1817

Scene 9. The court sentences Ninetta to death (recitative: “A pieno voti è condannata”). The judges admonish the people to take the judgment to heart (chorus: "Tremate, o popoli").

Scene 10. Those present express their horror. Giannetto makes one last, futile attempt to get Ninetta to reveal the truth (beginning of the quintet: “Ahi, qual colpo!”).

Scene 11. Fernando rushes in to free his daughter. He is recognized as a deserter and arrested. Ninetta is led to the execution site for execution (continuation of the quintet).

Village square.

On the right a church tower with a small bridge for repair work. On the left the big gate to the court house. Behind it an alley, and opposite another one that leads behind the church. Also on the left is a small door to Fabrizio's house

Scene 12. Lucia prays to save Ninetta (Arie Lucia: “A questo seno”).

Scene 13. Ernesto, a friend of Fernando, asks Pippo for directions to the Podestà's house.

Scene 14. After Pippo hid the money in the chestnut as promised, he checks how much he has left. Watched by Pippo and Giorgio, the magpie grabs a piece of gold and flies it onto the church tower. Together with Antonio, Pippo wants to try to get the coin back.

Scene 15. Ninetta is led across the square by the gendarmes. The people lament their fate (Finale II: “Infelice, sventurata”).

Scene 16. In the Elster's nest on the church tower, Pippo not only finds the coin, but also the silver spoon from Fabrizio's household. He runs into the tower and rings the bells to get the attention of those present. To prove Ninetta's innocence to them, he throws the cutlery down. Everyone rushed to the place of execution to prevent the execution.

Scene 17. On the way, Lucia explains what has happened to the Podestà. A volley of shotguns can be heard in the distance. Lucia thinks she will be late and passes out. Pippo and Antonio give the all-clear from the church tower. It was just a volley of joy.

Scene 18. Accompanied by Giannetto and Fabrizio, Ninetta is driven in by country folk in a hurry, decorated with branches and flowers. Giannetto gives the Podestà the court's rehabilitation judgment. Last but not least, Fernando appears, who was pardoned by royal decree. The opera ends in general joy. Only the Podestà is plagued by remorse.



The orchestral line-up for the opera includes the following instruments:

  • Two flutes / piccolo flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons
  • Four horns, two trumpets, three trombones
  • Timpani, bass drum , triangle , cymbals , two small drums , bell
  • Strings
  • Continuo

Music numbers

The opera contains the following musical numbers:

  • Sinfonia

first act

  • No. 1. Introduction: "Oh, che giorno fortunato!" (Scene 1)
  • No. 2. Cavatine (Ninetta): "Di piacer mi balza il cor" (scene 2)
  • No. 3. Cavatine (Isacco): "Stringhe e ferri da calzette" (scene 3)
  • No. 4. Choir (with Ninetta): “Ma qual suono! / Viva! Viva! "(Scene 4)
    • Cavatine (Giannetto): "Vieni fra queste braccia" (scene 5)
  • No. 5. Brindisi (Pippo, choir): "Tocchiamo, beviamo" (scene 5)
  • No. 6. Recitative: "Ieri, sul tramontar del sole" (scene 6)
    • Duet (Ninetta, Fernando): "Come frenar il pianto" (scene 6)
  • No. 7. Cavatine (Podestà): "Il mio piano è preparato" (scene 7)
  • No. 8 scene: "M'affretto di mandarvi i contrassegni" (scene 9)
    • Trio (Ninetta, Fernando, Podestà): "Oh nume benefico" (scene 9)
  • No. 9. Finale I: "In casa di Messere" (scene 14)
    • Tutti: "Mi sento opprimere" (scene 15)

Second act

  • No. 10. Duet (Ninetta, Giannetto): "Forse un dì conoscerete" (scene 3)
  • No. 11. Aria (Podestà): "Sì per voi, pupille amate" (scene 5)
  • No. 12. Recitative: "Deh, pensa che domani" (scene 6)
    • Duet (Ninetta, Pippo): "E ben, per mia memoria" (scene 6)
  • No. 13th scene (Lucia): "Infelice Ninetta!" (Scene 7)
    • Aria (Fernando): "Accusata di furto" (scene 8)
  • No. 14. Recitative: "A pieno voti è condannata" (scene 9)
    • Choir: "Tremate, o popoli" (scene 9)
    • Quintet: "Ahi, qual colpo!" (Scene 10)
  • No. 15. Aria (Lucia): "A questo seno" (scene 12)
  • No. 16. Finale II: "Infelice, sventurata" (scene 15)


The music of the opera is characterized again and again by the contrast between military music and the main theme, which is kept in a minor key and mainly occurs in the strings.

Besides the well-known overture, the following musical numbers are particularly worth mentioning:

  • Ninetta's cavatine “Di piacer mi balza il cor” (first act, scene 2) with the unaffected cabaletta “Tutto sorridere” reveals Ninetta's innocent character.
  • Giannetto's cavatine "Vieni fra queste braccia" (first act, scene 5) contains an impressively decorated cabaletta.
  • The duet Ninetta / Fernando “Come frenar il pianto” (first act, scene 6) foreshadows Verdi's later father-daughter duets.
  • The trio Ninetta / Fernando / Podestà "Oh nume benefico" (first act, scene 9) is tight and dramatically convincing.
  • The tutti “Mi sento opprimere” (first act, scene 15) is an exciting conclusion to the first act.
  • The duet Ninetta / Giannetto) “Forse un dì conoscerete” (second act, scene 3).
  • The duet Ninetta / Pippo “E ben, per mia memoria” (second act, scene 6) contains an Andantino with musical material from the overture.
  • The form of Fernando's aria “Accusata di furto” (second act, scene 8) arises more for dramatic than for musical reasons.
  • The choir “Tremate, o popoli” (second act, scene 9) is powerful and moving.
  • Lucia's aria "A questo seno" (second act, scene 12) is unnecessary for the drama, but still touching until the words and the music come into conflict in the Stretta.
  • In the finale “Infelice, sventurata” (second act, scene 15), the treatment of the choir and orchestra is particularly impressive.


The most famous piece of the opera is the very catchy and lively overture with the opening drum roll and the crescendo that is now common with Rossini as the climax. Rossini himself describes the haste in which this overture was written:

“I wrote the prelude to Diebischen Elster on the day of the premiere under the roof of the Scala, where the director had imprisoned me. I was guarded by four machinists who were instructed to throw my original text sheet by sheet out of the window to the copyists, who were waiting for him downstairs to be copied. If the music paper should be missing, they were instructed to throw me out of the window themselves. "

- Gioachino Rossini

Director Stanley Kubrick staged some scenes from his film Clockwork Orange for the overture. It is also used in the opening and closing credits of Kamikaze 1989 by Wolf Gremm and by the ferry company Corsica Ferries when entering and leaving ports, and also in the series Sherlock in the Reichenbach case, when Moriarty wants to steal the crown jewels.

The section of the overture, composed in waltz time, was used by the director Sergio Leone for the hospital scene of his film Once Upon a Time in America , in which the babies are exchanged.

The British rock band Marillion used the overture as an intro for the concerts of their Clutching At Straws tour and the resulting 1988 live album The Thieving Magpie .

Work history

The libretto , which the Italian philologist, doctor and poet Giovanni Gherardini (* 1778 in Milan; † 1861) wrote for Rossini, is an adaptation of the melodrama La Pie voleuse, ou la Servante de Palaiseau , which was written by the successful French theater writer Louis-Charles Caigniez had written together with his colleague Jean-Marie-Théodore Baudouin d'Aubigny. This play has been part of the repertoire of European theaters for several decades since its publication in 1815. Gherardini won a libretto competition with the motto “Avviso ai giudici” (“Complaint with the judge”) with the libretto in Milan. First, the composer Ferdinando Paër planned a setting. However, he rejected it as early as 1816 before Rossini devoted himself to the text.

Rossini wrote this opera shortly after La Cenerentola, which premiered in Rome . Less than three weeks after its premiere, he made his way to Milan to fulfill the task of the Teatro alla Scala . He worked particularly carefully on the instrumentation of this opera, since he had to fill a large theater hall at La Scala. In contrast to his earlier works, La gazza ladra contains only a few short echoes of original music. Like the previous opera La Cenerentola (this one is less clear), it belongs to the genre of the opera semiseria with both cheerful and serious elements. There are also references to the rescue opera . Unlike the French version, the opera has a happy ending. The tyrannical mayor became a Buffonese Podestà.

At the premiere on May 31, 1817, the soprano Teresa Belloc-Giorgi (Ninetta), the mezzo-soprano Maria Castiglioni (Lucia), the contralto Teresa Gallianis (Pippo), the tenors Savino Monelli (Giannetto) and Francesco Biscottini (Isacco) and the sang Basses Vincenzo Botticelli (Fabrizio Vingradito), Filippo Galli (Fernando Villabella), Antonio Ambrosi (Gottardo), Paolo Rossignoli (Giorgio) and Alessandro De Angelis (Ernesto). On the same day, the ballets Il trionfo di Ciro and La magia nel bosco were performed with a choreography by Urbano Garzia. The performance was a great success. There were a total of 27 performances this season.

Azevedo related an anecdote about the student of one of the Scala violinists, who was so upset about the use of the drum in the orchestra of this opera that he publicly announced his intention to personally murder Rossini in order to save the art of music. Rossini confronted him and explained the reason for the drum using the libretto. This incident increased the success of the work even further.

The opera remained on the repertoire until the late 1850s. However, the score was subjected to numerous changes and abbreviations, some of which were made by Rossini himself. La gazza ladra was first performed in Munich on November 20, 1817. On June 10, 1818, on the occasion of the opening of the opera house in Rossini's native city of Pesaro, a performance was performed for which Rossini added Fernando's cavatine "Dunque invano i perigli e la morte". The opera was first given in German on May 3, 1819 in Vienna. In St. Petersburg it appeared in Russian on February 7, 1821. In England it was published in Italian on March 10, 1821 in London and in English on February 4, 1830 in Covent Garden under the title Ninetta, or the Maid of Listed Palaiseau . The music for this version was edited by Henry Rowley. In Paris there were performances on September 18, 1821 in Italian at the Théâtre-Italien and on August 2, 1824 in French at the Odéon . On February 22, 1825 there was a performance in Warsaw in Polish. In the United States, La gazza ladra was played in Philadelphia in 1827 and in New York on August 28, 1830.

Subsequently, the opera fell into oblivion. It was not until 1937 that it was performed again in Breslau. From 1941 onwards, an abridged and edited version by Riccardo Zandonai met with some approval for almost two decades . The first attempts to reconstruct the original version were made in 1966 at Sadler's Wells Opera in London. The critical edition by Alberto Zedda was published in 1979. This version was first played in 1980 at the Rossini Opera Festival Pesaro . The work is now being performed more frequently again.


Publications (selection)

  • La Gazza ladra. Melodramma in due Atti. The thieving magpie. Opera in two acts . Italian u. German text. Vocal score. Breitkopf & Härtel , Leipzig (1820)
  • The thieving magpie . Piano reduction for singer. Translated, lyrically and musically edited by A. Treumann-Mette. Bühnenverlag Ahn & Simrock, Berlin 1937

Web links

Commons : La gazza ladra  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Scene 12 of the second act with the aria of Lucia is missing in the libretto of the original version at this point, which means that the numbering of the following scenes is moved forward by one. Instead, the text precedes the libretto.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Volker Scherliess : Gioacchino Rossini. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg, 5th edition, 2009.
  2. Alberto Zedda : Work information in the supplement to CD Naxos 8.660369-71 , accessed on June 11, 2016.
  3. a b c d e f g La gazza ladra. In: Harenberg opera guide. 4th edition. Meyers Lexikonverlag, 2003, ISBN 3-411-76107-5 , p. 778 ff.
  4. La gazza ladra. Comments on the critical edition by Alberto Zedda ( Memento from January 20, 2016 in the Internet Archive ).
  5. La gazza ladra. Music numbers on , accessed January 19, 2016.
  6. ^ Wilhelm Keitel , Dominik Neuner : Gioachino Rossini. Albrecht Knaus, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-8135-0364-X .
  7. La gazza ladra - Brani significativi in the work information on , accessed on February 19, 2016.
  8. a b c d e f g h i j k l Charles Osborne : The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini. Amadeus Press, Portland, Oregon, 1994, ISBN 978-0-931340-71-0 .
  9. Sam Morgenstern (Ed.): Composers on Music. Langen, Müller, Munich, 1st edition, 1956, p. 114.
  10. Interview - Charles Kálmán in the Filmmusik Weblog , accessed on January 19, 2016.
  11. a b c d Richard Osborne: Rossini - life and work. Translated from the English by Grete Wehmeyer. List Verlag, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-471-78305-9 .
  12. a b c d e f g Herbert Weinstock : Rossini - A biography. Translated by Kurt Michaelis. Kunzelmann, Adliswil 1981 (1968), ISBN 3-85662-009-0 .
  13. a b c d Richard Osborne:  Gazza ladra, La. In: Grove Music Online (English; subscription required).
  14. ^ Record of the performance on May 31, 1817 in the Teatro alla Scala in the Corago information system of the University of Bologna .
  15. a b c d e f g h i j Gioacchino Rossini. In: Andreas Ommer: Directory of all opera complete recordings. , volume 20.
  16. Inclusion of Lü Jia (2007) in the discography of La gazza ladra at Operadis.
  17. Cover of the recording from 2009 , accessed on January 19, 2016.