Ballet in three acts. Choreography by George Balanchine & Alexandra Danilova after Marius Petipa.
The couple Franz and Swanhilda live in a small town. Close by lives the mysterious Dr. Coppélius and his daughter who only appears on the balcony of his house looking silently down onto the square below. The inhabitants of the town are fascinated by her compelling beauty. Franz is not just fascinated, he is in love with this unfathomable and mysterious young woman called Coppélia. His behaviour does not escape his fiancée Swanhilda but Franz hardly seems aware that he is hurting her feelings. Friends start to dance and make music, dispelling any thoughts Franz may have about her jealousy.
The mayor appears to announce the festivities planned for the following day to celebrate the town’s new bells. He also gives Swanhilda and her girlfriends ears of corn which, when they rattle, are supposed to express the love of their partners. Swanhilda’s ear of corn, however, does not move so she thinks her assumption about Franz being in love with Coppélia is true. Swanhilda finds distraction from her despair in dancing with her girlfriends.
Night falls. Franz and his friends annoy Dr. Coppélius. They play a trick on him, and he loses his door key. Swanhilda and her girlfriends find it, and secretly enter his house to find out about the mysterious Coppélia. Unaware of this, Franz has the same idea.
The girls take a look around Dr. Coppélius’ house. They are very frightened when they find Coppélia who stares ahead, stiff and cold – and then they understand: she is a doll, Dr. Coppélius is her »creator« and his house his workshop. Unexpectedly, Dr. Coppélius appears. All the girls run away except Swanhilda who hides with Coppélia.
When Franz arrives and confesses to Dr. Coppélius that he is deeply in love with his daughter »Coppélia«, he believes that Franz would be perfect for an experiment. In order to make his beloved doll come to life, Dr. Coppélius gives Franz a sleeping draught, and casts a spell which is supposed to drain the human vitality from the young man and transfer it little by little to Coppélia. However, Dr. Coppélius is not aware that Swanhilda is dressed in the doll’s clothes and now pretends to be Coppélia come to life. Dr. Coppélius believes his experiment has worked. She begins to move and even recognise herself in the mirror. When she notices her lifeless Franz and wants to wake him, her dancing becomes wilder until he finally gains consciousness. When the Coppélia doll is brought out, Franz finally understands the deceit he has fallen victim to, and he leaves the house in haste with his true love, Swanhilda. The disappointed Dr. Coppélius remains behind with the lifeless remains of his doll.
Apart from the festivities to celebrate the town’s new bells, preparations for the wedding are also underway. The mayor gives the engaged couples their dowry. Swanhilda agrees to marry Franz.
The angry Dr. Coppélius arrives with his doll but the mayor placates him with a gift of money.
The wedding couples take part in the following dances, which, introduced by the »Waltzes of the Golden Hours«, symbolise the call of the new bells – daybreak, prayer, work, happy times, call to war and proclamation of peace.
Finally, great festivities follow with everyone celebrating together with the young bridal couple Swanhilda and Franz.