Based on: E.T.A. Hoffman's "Der Sandmann" ("The Sandman") and "Die Puppe" ("The Doll")
Coppélia Plot & Roles
*Classical ballets have evolved over time, lending themselves to different interpretations as choreographers and directors create works that reflect their visions of the story. The following is intended to provide general information; for details on different versions, click on each of the Coppélia performances below.
PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS IN COPPÉLIA (in alphabetical order)
Dr. Coppélius: A doctor and doll-maker
Franz: Betrothed to Swanhilda
Swanhilda: Betrothed to Franz
⊙ ACT I, SCENE 1: A EUROPEAN VILLAGE
Sitting on a balcony quietly reading a book is Coppélia, “daughter” of the eccentric Dr. Coppélius. When Swanhilda leaves her house that day, she notices the girl and tries to get her attention, but she receives no response. Also vying for Coppélia’s attention is Franz, Swanhilda’s betrothed. Swanhilda is bothered by his behavior and convinced that her boyfriend is more interested in the girl on the balcony. She shakes an ear of wheat but does not hear the rattling that would indicate that Franz loves her. Upset, she runs off leaving the town’s festivities.
Later that day several boys heckle Dr. Coppélius in front of his home and he drops his keys amidst the chaos. Upon finding them later on, Coppélia and a group of her friends decide to enter the doctor’s place to find out once and for all why the girl on the balcony won’t look up from her book.
⊙ ACT II, SCENE 1: DR. COPPÉLIUS' HOUSE
The girls sneak into the house only to discover that they are not alone. Upon further investigation they realize that it is not people who join them, but rather life-size dolls. Swanhilda goes out to the balcony and doubles over in laughter when she sees that the object of Franz’s eye is in fact a doll as well. Feeling mischievous, the girls wind up all the dolls. Yet their play is interrupted when Dr. Coppélius returns. He shoos them away, but one stays behind – Swanhilda.
Meanwhile, Franz’s own curiosity has encouraged him to climb a ladder into Dr. Coppélius’ home. Being that the eccentric needs a human soul to transfer to his “daughter” in order to bring her to life, he invites Franz to stay. He drugs him into a sleep and then sets out to work his magic. In order to not blow her cover, Swanhilda puts on Coppélia’s clothes and plays along with Dr. Coppélius’ spells. She uses an opportunity to wake Franz and the two succeed in making up and escaping.
⊙ ACT II, SCENE 2: DR. COPPÉLIUS' HOUSE
Swanhilda and Franz’s wedding day has arrived, but their ceremony is interrupted by an angry Dr. Coppélius who wants money for the damages caused in his home. Ultimately, the mayor pays and the celebration continues.
★ INTERESTING FACT ★ In its premiere in 1870, the role of Franz in COPPÉLIA was originally performed en travesti by Eugénie Fiocre, a principal dancer with the Paris Opera. In Paris, women continued to portray the title male character until after the second World War.