Act I

The people of Messina are preparing to meet the soldiers, led by Don Pedro the General, who defeated the enemy. Celebrations in honour of the winners are led by the governor of Messina, Leonato; in the square next to him is his daughter Hero and niece Béatrice. The girls ask about the fate of the young warriors. Hero eagerly awaits the return of her beloved Claudio and is delighted to hear of his bravery.

Good news awaits the wayward Béatrice: the object of her constant ridicule, Bénédict, returns with a medal for courage.

At Leonato's command, the townspeople and Somarone the music master rehearse the welcoming ceremony. Béatrice is full of sarcasm. Hero is waiting to meet her beloved, who immediately turns up with Bénédict and Don Pedro. They are all alive, but not all are unharmed. Leonato is forced to cancel the ceremony to offer help to the wounded. In the hospital room, Béatrice and Bénédict take to teasing and annoying each other with gusto.

Don Pedro and Claudio realise that Béatrice, the mocker, and Bénédict, the sceptic, are perfect for each other. They call on Hero and Ursule for help and agree to play the freedom-loving heroes, marrying them the very night. The men loudly – so that the hidden Bénédict could hear – discuss the virtues of Béatrice and the amazing fact that the girl is allegedly in love with him. Béatrice's friends do the same. Next to her they sing of Bénédict, love and a quiet, serene night.

Act II

Béatrice and Bénédict are trapped. A feeling flares up in their hearts. First they write down their names, confessions and poetic lines, but then throw away the sheets of paper. Scraps of their notes are carefully collected by their friends. While waiting for the wedding ceremony, Hero shares her happiness with Béatrice and is surprised to discover her change of heart - the usual causticity of her cousin is replaced by tenderness. But Béatrice does not give up. Love and marriage? No way, she'd rather go to a convent.

Celebrations begin under the leadership of Somarone. The townspeople sing a hymn of passion and guilt, then they go to church, and Béatrice is left alone in confusion.

Bénédict asks Béatrice to return to the feast, but the passionate love scene again turns into a thrust and parry. Meanwhile, the procession returns, and it turns out that the notary has already prepared a wedding contract for the second couple. Who could it be? Béatrice and Bénédict swear their hate for each other, but Don Pedro, Claudio, Hero and Ursule have evidence to the contrary: here are the notes in which the scoffers confess their feelings. In disbelief, Béatrice and Bénédict look at each other and sign the marriage contract with their own hands. Love wins, everyone praises the newlyweds.