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The opera opens with three travelers taking refuge in an inn during a storm. Count Alberto is on his way to meet Berenice, a woman to whom he is betrothed but has never met. Another traveler, Don Parmenione , is trying to find a friend’s sister who has mysteriously disappeared. He is accompanied by Martino. When the storm clears Alberto departs accidentally taking Parmenione’s suitcase with him. When Martino and Parmenione open the remaining suitcase, they discover a portrait of a young woman, along with the Count’s fine clothes. Parmenione decides to masquerade as Alberto and claim the woman for himself. Turmoil ensues when both the impostor and the original show up at the same doorstep in search of a bride.

Musically, Opportunity Makes the Thief features a central quintet which is longer than the sextet in Mozart’s Don Giovanni—in fact, according, to opera critic Charles Osborne, it is nearly as long as the Mozart opera’s act I finale. Additionally, Rossini dispenses of the traditional opera overture with a more descriptive orchestral tableau illustrative of the opening stage direction which calls for thunder and lightning.

Neglected after his death, L’occasione fa il ladro (ossia Il cambio della valigia) was revived at Pesaro in 1892 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth, and has enjoyed a number of modern revivals including, among others, the Rossini Opera Festival, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, director, and the Buxton Opera Festival in 1987; and Opera North in 2004 in an English-language adaptation entitled Love’s Luggage Lost, directed by Christopher Alden and conducted by David Parry.