Concertante opera in two acts by Gioachino Rossini Performed in Italian with German surtitles
On the occasion of Giannetto's return from the war, his father Fabrizio Vingradito, a rich tenant, organises a celebration. A talking magpie entertains the workers by calling "Pippo", Fabrizio's servant and "Ninetta", the parlour maid. Fabrizio Vingradito reveals his plans to his wife Lucia on marrying Giannetto and Ninetta because they have been in love for a long time. Lucia is all but happy about this decision as she has been missing a silver fork and blames Ninetta for this. Ninetta returns from picking strawberries in joyful anticipation of Giannetto's arrival. Fabrizio greets her in a friendly manner, however, Lucia does not hide her hostile attitude. Isacco, the travelling merchant, wants to sell his goods but Pippo dismisses him. Finally Giannetto arrives. He is welcomed with big cheers and embraces Ninetta. In the middle of the celebration, Giannetto suggests visiting a sick uncle. The servants are left behind. While, Ninetta carefully checks the cutlery a ragged soldier approaches her. She immediately recognises him as her father Fernando. Fernando tells her that he was sentenced to death after a fight with his superior and for this reason he deserted his post. At that exact moment the mayor (Podestà) approaches Ninetta, yet again pestering her with his confessions of love. Ninetta signals to her father to pretend he is sleeping and in front of the mayor she suggests he is simply a vagabond. Another marplot appears - the scribe Giorgio, carrying a warrant of apprehension. While the mayor looks for his glasses, Fernando gives Ninetta two pieces of cutlery made of silver, asking her to sell them and hide the money in a specific chestnut tree. The mayor asks Ninetta to read the warrant out loud. To her dismay she realises that the wanted person is her father and she subsequently changes the description of the person. In an unnoticed moment the magpie steals one of Lucia's spoons.
Ninetta secretly sells her fathers pieces of cutlery to the merchant Isacco. Before she can hide the money Lucia notices her new loss. The mayor, who wants to seek revenge for Ninetta's primness, takes advantage of the situation and starts investigating despite Fabrizio's opposition. When it is revealed that Ninetta is the daughter of the deserter, money falls out of her purse and Isacco declares he bought a fork and a spoon from her with the initials FV, her guilt appears to be proven. Ninetta cannot defend herself as she would be exposing her father Fernando Villabella. The mayor has Ninetta thrown in prison.
Ninetta asks the prison guard Antonio to fetch Pippo so that he can sell her cross and hide the money for her father. Before this, Giannetto visits her and tries to convince Ninetta to give up the secret that could prove her innocence. The mayor offers Ninetta to release her if she devotes herself to him. Ninetta furiously refuses. Pippo happily agrees to do Ninetta the favour.
Fernando Villabella and Lucia meet in Fabrizio Vingradito's house. Lucia, aware of the part she played in this, confesses that Ninetta is indicted for theft and shall be sentenced to death. Fernando decides to save his daughter, despite putting himself in danger.
The judges unanimously declare Ninetta guilty. Neither Giannetto's pleas nor Fernando's appearance can change anything. Fernando is declared a deserter and locked up.
Ninetta is led to the place of execution. She is saved in the nick of time when Pippo and Giorgio discover that the magpie hid a coin it stole from them in the spire of the tower, where they also find the stolen cutlery. Ninetta's innocence is proven. Fernando is pardoned and nothing stands in the way of Giannetto and Ninetta's marriage.