The funny and charming ballet Coppélia is well known and loved by ballet fans, but is not very familiar to the rest of the world. If you are considering going to see this ballet, know that there is a good reason that it is still being performed one hundred and thirty years after its original premiere in 1860 at the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra. It was originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon in Paris with music by Léo Delibes and was later choreographed by Marcus Petipa and George Balanchine. Coppélia is now a very popular ballet performed worldwide and is loved and respected for its lightheartedness and humor.
The Plot of Coppélia: Act One
The town in which this ballet is set is preparing for a celebration and it is announced that anyone who gets married on the upcoming holiday will be awarded with a gift of money. A young, beautiful, and sassy girl named Swanhilda is engaged to a young man named Franz and she wants to marry him during the festival; however, she senses that he does not love her enough.
A toymaker named Dr. Coppelius, rumored to be old and crazy, also lives in the town, and on his balcony sits a lovely girl who spends all of her time reading. Franz becomes obsessed with this quiet girl, whose name is Coppélia, and blows her kisses, trying to win her over. Swanhilda finds out about Franz’s passion for Coppélia and becomes very angry, and though Franz tries to convince her that he still loves her she runs away from him, heartbroken.
Dr. Coppelius leaves his house and is teased by a group of small boys, causing him to drop his keys. Swanhilda finds his keys and decides to sneak into his house with some of her friends to meet the allusive Coppélia. Franz gets a ladder and sets it up so he can climb onto Coppélia’s balcony.
The Plot of Coppélia: Act Two
Swanhilda and her friends sneak into Dr. Coppelius’ house and find many life-sized dolls in a large room. They wind up the dolls and watch them dance. Swanhilda discovers Coppélia behind a curtain and tries to introduce herself; however, she soon realizes, much to her amusement, that Coppélia is also a doll.
Dr. Coppelius comes home and Swanhilda’s friends all run away in fear while Swanhilda hides behind Coppélia’s curtain. Franz then climbs into the room through the window and Dr. Coppelius invites him in, offering him wine with sleep powder in it. Dr. Coppelius wishes to use Franz as a sacrifice for a magic spell to give the doll Coppélia life.
Dr. Coppelius casts his spell and Franz falls fast asleep thanks to the wine. Swanhilda realizes what is happening and, while behind the curtain, changes into Coppélia’s clothes. She pretends to be the doll and Dr. Coppelius is delighted when she seems to come to life and dance. Swanhilda wakes up Franz and the two escape while Dr. Coppelius is distracted.
The Plot of Coppélia: Act Three
Swanhilda and Franz decide to get married after all and are about to wed when a furious Dr. Coppelius appears. Swanhilda’s father gives the toymaker money in exchange for his forgiveness, and Swanhilda and Franz get married. The town celebrates by dancing.
Anyone who gets the opportunity should go see Coppélia, as it is a wonderfully charming and lovely ballet!