Coppélia premiered on May 25, 1870 at the Théâtre Impérial l’Opéra. It was composed by Léo Delibes and was originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon. The story was actually based on two stories by ETA Hoffman: The Sandmand and The Doll. 16-year-old Giuseppina Bozzacchi played the principal role of Swanhilde. Coppélia became the most performed ballet at the Opéra with more than 500 performances.


Giuseppina Bozzacchi as Swanhilde in the Saint-Léon/Delibes Coppélia. Paris, 1870

Marius Petipa restaged Coppélia in 1884 in St. Petersburg for the Imperial Ballet. Most of productions today are derived from Petipas choreography. This ballet is considered to mark the end of the Romantic era and the beginning of the Classical era of ballet.

This story is about Dr. Coppélius who is a toy maker and his life-like doll Coppélia. Dr. Coppélius hopes one day that his creation will come to life.

Franz, a young man in the town has noticed Coppélia in the window of the toy shop and falls for her. Soon his fiancé Swanilda has come to realize that Franz has been blowing kisses to the beautiful Coppélia and becomes jealous. Neither of them know that Coppélia is merely a doll.

Swanilda is upset even though Franz has assured her that she is the only one for him. She is still not convinced and when Dr. Coppélius leaves his shop that evening he accidentally drops the key to his toy shop. Swanilda and her friends enter the shop and proceed to turn on all the dolls.

Soon Dr. Coppélius returns to the shop to find it in disarray. He furiously tells all the girls to leave however Swanilda hides in the alcove where Coppélia is kept. Meanwhile, Franz has climbed up a ladder to Coppélia’s balcony to swear his love to her. He is also caught by Dr. Coppélius who gives the young man several drinks until he passes out.

Swanilda has discovered Coppélia and decides to trade places with her. She puts on the dolls clothes and proceeds to dance around tricking Dr. Coppélius into thinking that his doll has come to life. When Franz awakes the two run out as Dr. Coppélius realizes what has happened.

The story ends with the wedding of Franz and Swanilda. Dr. Coppélius wants his revenge for what has happened however he is given a purse of gold for his troubles from the mayor of the town and all is forgiven!

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