Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first of three “Musings” that will be posted in advance of the BSO’s Journeys concert on November 22.
Overture to the opera, “La gazza ladra”
Who would imagine that the subject of an unjust application of the death penalty would be the impetus for an opera?
Giaochino Rossini (1792-1869) had suffered some previous critical failures when it came to premieres at the La Scala Opera House in Milan. Overall, he was doing well in his chosen career but La Scala hadn’t recognized his talents in a any significant way just yet. It was at that point that he came to know of a play called “La Pie Voleuse” or The Thieving Magpie. The story is centered around a young servant girl who is, naturally, in love with the son of the master of the home in which she serves. She has also attracted the attentions of the local Mayor who is summarily rejected by our heroine, Ninetta. Complicating her situation is her father who has deserted the army after having killed a captain and has recently returned to the town in secret.
As if that isn’t enough, a small silver spoon has been purloined by a magpie for her nest. The blame falls squarely on the hapless servant girl and she is sentenced to death. This part of the plot was influenced by a true event in England in which a servant girl by the name of Fenning had been sentenced to die after being accused of stealing. While no one can truly say whether she did indeed steal but most will agree that death was the harshest penalty she could receive. In fact, the execution was met with great objection by the populace and helped change the laws later in London. Not to worry for our operatic heroine, as she was spared execution after the revelation that the real thief was a magpie who chose the bright silver spoon for her nest.
As far as the overture goes it is said that Rossini was having a bit of trouble getting things in on time. The deadline (the day before the premiere) for the score to the overture came and Rossini had produced nothing! It is said that he was rounded up and locked into a cell and forced to write it so the musicians would have something to play from. Imagine the scene as pages of the score flew out the window of his musical cell into the waiting hands of his copyist to be written out for the orchestra to play. The performance of the overture was wildly successful and the applause was sustained for a full five minutes… and the opera hadn’t even started!
Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Journeys” featuring Minnesota Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus and his Jazz Quintet, as soloists, along with narrator James Lileks. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 22 at 3 p.m. at the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts.