Preparations are underway for the return of Giannetto, a beloved village hero, and son to Lucia and Fabrizio. Wine is flowing and everyone is encouraged to join the celebrations, including Ninetta, the serving girl who is in love with Giannetto. When some cutlery and coins go missing during the party preparations, Ninetta is blamed. Lucia has never liked a girl of such a low status; she is clearly a criminal and is no good for her son. In the meantime, Ninetta’s father, a soldier away at war, has been accused of committing a crime against his commander, and has been forced to flee the camp. He seeks out Ninetta for help but must remain in hiding.
The corrupt Podestà (Mayor) is called to the house to review the case of the missing cutlery. He has had his eyes on the sweet Ninetta for a while, but she has rejected his advances, so, with little evidence, he sides with her employers and sends her to jail where she will face a trial and execution. While Ninetta waits in jail, Pippo and some of the other villagers discover that items are still going missing, and when they investigate they find the culprit - the magpie (la gazza). Ninetta is freed just as her father receives a pardon from the king, and the villagers once again rejoice.
Based on a true story, Rossini’s La gazza ladra sits in an unusual place between opera buffa and opera seria, with some farcical comedic moments contrasting other more tragic moments. It is perhaps this contrast, as well as some very catchy melodies and beautifully written ensembles, which makes this opera one of Rossini’s best and definitely one for all the family.