La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) is a two act opera by Italian composer Gioachino Rossini. The libretto by Giovanni Gherardini was based on the 1815 comedy La Pie Voleuse by JMT Badouin d'Aubigny and Louis-Charles Caigniez. The story tells of a maid who almost goes to the gallows for stealing silver, before it is discovered that the culprit was a magpie, which had been thieving and hiding items in the church tower.
The opera is best known for its overture, which is notable for its arresting beginning with several consecutive military snare drum rolls. Rossini was a quick writer and he needed to be for this piece. It was reported that the composer was locked in a room writing the overture the day before his semi-seria opera was due to be premiered at La Scala in Milan. He then threw each sheet out of the window to his copyists, who wrote out the full orchestral parts.
This overture makes a few appearances in Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film A Clockwork Orange in order to denote ultra violence. It also appears during the famous baby-switching scene in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America.
The opera's overture has provided the background score for many television and radio adverts, including the award winning "colour like no other" 2006 British TV commercial for the Sony "Bravia" TV, featuring spectacular paint explosions.
A rocked up version of the opera's overture is performed by the British progressive act Marillion on their double-disc live set The Thieving Magpie.