The Italian Girl in Algiers Overture
Length: c. 10 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, timpani, percussion (bass drum, cymbals), and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: January 19, 1927, Pietro Cimini conducting
Before he reached the age of 40, the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini had written very nearly as many operas as he had accumulated earthly years. Having started this operatic marathon when he was 18, and having attained spectacular fame throughout Europe with the products of his prodigious facility, Rossini was apparently ready for early retirement, at least from the lyric theater. In the 39 years that remained to him after he put down his operatic pen, he turned out a huge number of pieces, most of them small and unpretentious, one - the Stabat Mater - a major work.
The Italian Girl in Algiers was composed in typical Rossini fashion: quickly, in less than a month. The composer conducted the premiere of the work that he called a melodramma giocoso in Venice in May 1813. In February 1817, it became the first Rossini opera to be given in Paris, where the composer was eventually to reside.
The Overture begins with a slow introduction that features an ornamental (quasi-exotic) solo for oboe, and is followed by an allegro with a main theme in the winds. A contrasting idea is a perky yet sinuous tune sung by an oboe, then flute. And, very much present and accounted for is a pulse-quickening episode that takes off like a locomotive getting up steam, that is, it gets faster and louder as it goes - a Rossini trademark for which the composer was both praised as well as damned.
- Orrin Howard served the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Director of Publications and Archives for many years, and he continues to contribute to the program book.