Ricciarelli, the Ninetta, is a loyal and accomplished Rossinian and a regular visitor to Pesaro. Her vocal portrait of this wronged country girl may strike some as being too sophisticated. I recall an old 78rpm recording of Ninetta's cavatina sung by Lina Pagliughi that seemed to strike exactly the right note of unaffected artlessness. No need to count the spoons after this girl had left for town. Ricciarelli, by contrast, rather cossets the music and occasionally elaborates it, attempting in the process perhaps to suggest a degree of vocal ease that she does not now quite possess. As an old man, Rossini wrote variants and cadenzas for this cavatina for the soprano Giuseppina Vitali but Ricciarelli appears to be using her own ornaments.
La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) marked a culmination of the convergence of serious and comic elements in Rossini’s work. The result is an ideal hybrid: a tragic opera with a happy ending that rises to the status of true opera seria. With its outstanding dramatic and musical qualities it remains one of Rossini’s greatest and most successful operas, a constant presence in the repertoire since its triumphant 1817 première in Milan. This performance is conducted by Alberto Zedda, who made his conducting début in 1956, produced the first critical edition of La gazza ladra, and is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the operas of Rossini.
“Sets, costumes and acting are all under sensible direction and there are none of those silly diversionary indulgences that have become so habitual in recent years. There are four good vocal performances: by Elena Zilio and Nucci Condò, both sturdy mezzos; by David Kuebler, an accomplished lyric tenor; and by the grand veteran Carlos Feller… Ileana Cotrubas as the heroine sometimes touches the heart but at this stage in her career rarely delights the ear. Bartoletti and his players do justice to Rossini's score, as do the video director and his crew to the events onstage.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007
By Rossini’s time this genre was classified into a rigidly defined series of conventions: a drama with a happy ending, in which the innocent victim, unjustly condemned, should be saved from the scaffold at the eleventh hour and the rascal persecutor punished. The social setting of these operas always delt with a conflict between a feudal aristocracy ( that in La Gazza Ladra is replaced by arrogant welders of power ) and a world of humble people , nearly always peasants. - Known as ’The Thieving Magpie’ in English, La Gazza Ladra deals with a servant girl accused of stealing some silverware with which the magpie of the title has actually absconded for its nest. Seemingly lightweight, the opera was rooted in a true story in which a young woman was actually put to death for the bird’s ”crime”.