Le Siege de Corinthe premiered at the Paris Opéra on October 9, 1826, to enthusiastic acclaim by critics and public alike. Although Rossini had been in Paris working at the Theâtre Italien since 1824, he now made his first attempt at creating an Italian opera which would please the fastidious French public. The tastes of the French ran strong, and their opera was imbued with their national identity. With his new French honorary title ("Premier Compositeur du Roi et Inspecteur General du Chant en France") he set about revising his Neapolitan opera, Mahomet II, for its premiere at the Opéra.
The original work, Mahomet II, was experimental in many respects: the set pieces did not slavishly conform to the early- nineteenth-century standard operatic forms, but were instead suited to their specific dramatic purposes. It was written to showcase the vocal talents of Isabella Colbran, an Italian coloratura star who dominated Rossini's Neapolitan writing. The opera was initially revised in 1823 for the Venetian stage: Rossini added an overture, a trio, and changed the ending so that he could include the joyous rondo from La Donna del Lago. Received coolly in its initial state, the opera was booed and hissed in its second form -- hardly the success the composer had hoped for.
For the French revision, Rossini hired two literati, Balocchi and Soumet, to rewrite the libretto. They kept the original story line but changed the setting: instead of the Venetians, the Turks are laying siege to the Greek city of Corinth, and the Greeks are fighting for their very survival. The ending remains tragic: Corinth is dramatically razed to the ground and Pamira kills herself rather than marry the Turkish sultan. Feelings in France ran high for the cause of Greek independence at the time, and the librettists were able to capitalize on those emotions. Rossini even conducted a benefit concert for the Greek cause and raised quite a sum.
The score is greatly changed; the original formal experiments are dispensed with and the florid writing is made simpler. The famous "Terzettone" that spans two scenes of Act I in the original opera is completely redone into a smaller, more comprehensible piece. Although the result is an opera that is less dramatic and less grand, it is also more coherent. The flavor of the recitative now reflects that of the French language; the orchestration is richer, with more brass and woodwind writing, and the role of Neocles is now a tenor voice, rather than an Italian contralto. Rossini used a Gloria from a mass composed in 1820 as the basis of the new, splendid overture, and also as the basis of the grand finale to Act II.