Gioachino Rossini was at the height of his popularity when, halfway through his life, and with 39 operas behind him, he stopped composing for the stage. The remainder of his life he spent composing for smaller forces, his best known religious works, and pieces to amuse himself. His birthdate left him a victim of the calendar: February 29th, 1792.

From his first produced opera, The Marriage Contract to his last, William Tell, Rossini was as prolific as he was fast at composing. He did frequently borrow from himself, and re-purpose material, but the staged works were written in astoundingly short periods of time. The Italian Girl in Algiers, La Cenerentola, and the Barber of Seville each in less than month, and the overture to The Thieving Magpie, he wrote the day of the performance, describing in a letter that he was locked in a room by the theater manager, passing manuscripts out a window to the waiting music copyists below, until he was finished.