Music by Leo Delibes
Original staging by Arthur Saint-Leon
Staged and directed by Frederic Franklin
Scenery by Tony Straiges
Costumes by Patricia Zipprodt
Lighting by Brad Fields
World Premiere: Theatre Imperial de l'Opera, Paris, 5/25/1870
Original Cast: Guiseppina Bozacchi and Eugenie Fiocre
ABT Premiere: (of full-length ballet) Brooklyn Academy of Music, 12/24,68
Choreography by Enrique Martinez
Scenery and costumes by William Pitkin
Cast: Carla Fracci and Erik Bruhn
Act I - The curtain rises on the square of a small European town several hundred years ago. A lovely young girl, Coppelia, is seen sitting on a balcony reading a book as Swanilda enters. Swanilda looks up at the girl, tries to attract her attention, but receives no reply. Franz, Swanilda's lover, comes into the Square and blows a kiss to the beautiful Coppelia. She ignores him too, and continues unconcerned with her book. However, Swanilda has seen these attentions of her lover to another pretty girl, and Franz is a very busy young man assuring Swanilda that he is not faithless and his affections are hers alone. Still jealous, Swanilda refuses to believe him and runs away as a group of young people interrupts their quarrel.
The Burgomaster enters to announce that at a celebration the following day the Lord of the Manor will present dowries to all couples who wish to marry. Asked if she will marry Franz, the pouting Swanilda puts a sheaf of corn to her ear. Thus, according to old custom, the corn will tell her if her lover is faithful or not. Sadly, she says the ear is silent. The other couples, however, are delighted at the Burgomaster's good news and dance until night falls when they must leave for home. Dr. Coppelius comes out, locks his door, and is immediately swirled away by a boisterous band of revelers. In the excitement he drops the key to his shop. Swanilda and her friends appear, and, finding the key, they are filled with curiosity about the strange Doctor and enter his shop. Dr. Coppelius returns, sees his door open and darts in. Franz enters carrying a ladder which he uses to climb on to Coppelia's balcony.
Act II - The curtain rises on the dimly-lit interior of Dr. Coppelius' shop -- a room full of life-like, life-size dolls. Swanilda pokes her head into an alcove to discover Coppelia. Someone jars a Chinese doll who dances until its clockwork runs down. The amazed young intruders then wind up all the dolls who dance as the friends watch, enchanted. Suddenly, a furious Dr. Coppelius enters and culprits flee, except Swanilda. She runs into the alcove where Coppelia is kept. At the same time, Dr. Coppelius apprehends the faithless Franz entering by the window. Franz pleads his love for the beautiful Coppelia. Dr. Coppelius pretends to listen with interest while he entices Franz with several well-doctored drinks. When the unsuspecting Franz passes out, Dr. Coppelius brings what he thinks is his fabulous doll Coppelia from her alcove. However, it is Swanilda who, overhearing Franz's declaration of love for Coppelia, has changed places with the doll. The Doctor makes some magical gestures over Swanilda as she awkwardly rises to dance. The deluded Dr. Coppelius believes his puppet has come to life.
Swanilda dances on and on, creating havoc in the room and upsetting all the Doctor's work. Franz, who has just revived, dashes out of the room chased by Dr. Coppelius. Eluding the Doctor, Franz returns to watch the proceedings with glee until, finally, he and Swanilda run out leaving the shop in a shambles. Dr. Coppelius returns to discover the figure of Coppelia lying in her chair, divested of clothes, and realizes that he has been deceived.
Act III - The curtain rises on the final act which is again set in the village square. Franz and Swanilda, now reconciled, approach the Burgomaster to receive their dowries and be married. Dr. Coppelius storms in, accusing the lovers of destroying his life's work. Swanilda, realizing the justness of his claim, offers him her dowry, but the Burgomaster gives Dr. Coppelius a bag of gold and sends him off. The townspeople then participate in the fete which unites Swanilda and Franz in a happy marriage.
At the age of 33, Delibes was commissioned by the Paris Opera to write his two large-scale ballets, Coppélia and Sylvia. Coppélia is based on a story by E. T. A. Hoffmann -- the same tale that sparked Offenbach's brilliant "Doll Act" in his opera, The Tales of Hoffmann. Coppélia met with immediate success on its completion in 1870 and has been held a charming favorite by succeeding ballet-lovers both young and old.