The operas of Giacchino Rossini aren’t performed very much today, but they were once all the rage, and the overtures to those operas have remained mainstays of orchestral music even while the operas themselves have lapsed into some neglect. Rossini’s overtures sparkle with energy, adventure, and lyrical wit, and a few have managed through use in other areas of popular culture managed to become even more well-known now than they were in the composer’s own time. Think of William Tell‘s final section, reused later as the theme for The Lone Ranger, or of the amazing use a Looney Tunes cartoon made of The Barber of Seville.
Today we have a different overture: L’italiana in Algeri, or The Italian Girl in Algiers. The overture starts off quietly before a surprising smash erupts from the orchestra, and then as the overture progresses the tunes and rhythms become more and more dancelike as the overture propels toward its close. As always, the overture is full of Rossini’s sparkle and delight.