Rossini was famous for his writing speed, and La gazza ladra was no exception. It was reported that the producer had to lock Rossini in a room the day before the first performance in order to write the overture. Rossini then threw each sheet out of the window to his copyists, who wrote out the full orchestral parts.
It was first performed on 31 May 1817 at La Scala, Milan. The opera was revised by Rossini for subsequent productions in Pesaro in 1818, and for the Teatro del Fondo (Naples) in 1819 and the Teatro di San Carlo (Naples) in 1820. He again worked on the music in Paris in 1866.
Riccardo Zandonai made his own version of the opera for a revival in Pesaro in 1941. Alberto Zedda edited Rossini's original work for publication by the Fondazione Rossini in 1979.
This overture, beginning and ending in E major, though passing through G major, makes a few appearances in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, and has also provided the background score for many television and radio commercials. It also appears during the famous baby-switching scene in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America. The theme also appears during a musical interlude in Dario Argento's Le Cinque Giornate, arranged by Giorgio Gaslini.
The score is also frequently mentioned in Haruki Murakami's 1997 novel, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It was also mentioned in Hergé's 1963 comic album The Castafiore Emerald: Opera singer Bianca Castafiore is slated to perform La gazza ladra, a fact that provides Tintin with a clue.