La schiava in Bagdad (The Slave Girl in Baghdad) is an opera in two acts composed by Giovanni Pacini to a libretto by Vittorio Pezzi. It premiered on 28 October 1820 at the Teatro Carignano in Turin. In the 20 years following its premiere it was performed throughout Italy as well as in Spain, Russia, and England. Set in Baghdad, the plot involves the efforts of a Syrian prince to rescue his beloved Zora who is being held as a slave girl in the city. The prince is assisted in his mission by a wily shoemaker who had once been his servant.
Subtitled Il papucciaio (The Shoemaker), La schiava in Bagdad is a dramma giocoso, a frequent genre in Pacini’s early works. Pezzi’s libretto was based on the story, but not the text, of an earlier libretto by Felice Romani, Il califo e la schiava (The Caliph and the Slave Girl) which was set by Francesco Basili and premiered at La Scala in 1819. Pacini’s opera premiered at Turin’s Teatro Carignano on 28 October 1820 starring Giuditta Pasta as the slave girl Zora and was performed in a double-bill with the premiere of Giacomo Serafini’s ballet L’amicizia tradita.
Following its premiere, La schiava in Bagdad was performed in most of the major cities of Italy, including Venice (Teatro San Benedetto, 1825), Milan (Teatro della Canobbiana, 1825), Naples (Teatro San Carlo, 1826), Genoa (Teatro Carlo Felice, 1829), and Florence (Teatro della Pergola, 1831). The opera had its London premiere at the King’s Theatre in December 1826 with Rosalbina Caradori as Zora. Other performances outside Italy included Barcelona (1822 and 1827), Madrid (1827), St. Petersburg (1830) and Odessa (1834). One of the last known performances of the opera was in Cagliari in 1839 with Carolina Pateri as Zora and Luigi Giorza as the Caliph.
In his review of the first London performances, the critic for The New Monthly Magazine wrote that La schiava in Bagdad had considerable success with the audience, largely due to the bravura performances of the singers in the leading roles—Carlo Zucchelli as the Caliph and Rosalbina Caradori as Zora, a particularly demanding role. He described the opera’s music as attractive and lively albeit heavily reliant on Rossini in both its style and form and went so far as to claim that Pacini’s score exhibited “many barefaced plagiarisms” from several of Rossini’s works.