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Coppelia is a comic ballet first choreographed in 1870 by Arthur Saint-Léon, ballet master at the Imperial Ballet in Russia. The word Coppelia means young woman in Greek. The leading role was performed by Giuseppina Bozzacchi, an Italian ballerina when she was sixteen.
Do you know that the role of Franz was performed by a woman Eugénie Fiocre in the 1870 premiere? Women usually played the leading male and female roles in ballet until after WWII.
The story, choreography, and settings changed over the years. Different ballet companies reproduced the shows. Leading companies perform Coppelia in their yearly shows. Our website has more information about the shows.
The Acts in Coppelia Ballet
The ballet has three characters - Dr. Coppélius (the man who owns a life-like doll), Franz (the village boy in love with the doll), and Swanhilda (Franz’s betrothed).
Coppelia ballet is divided into two acts. The first act is set in the European village where the characters are introduced. Dr. Coppélius calls his doll Coppelia, his daughter. Many villagers see the doll on the balcony of his home. Franz and Swanhilda also see her and have different reactions.
The second act has two scenes set in Dr. Coppélius’ house. The second act starts with Swanhilda and her friends secretly entering the eccentric doctor’s home to find out that the girl on the balcony is a doll.
Franz arrives at the doctor’s house to meet the beautiful Coppelia. He is drugged by the doctor, who wants to transfer Franz’s soul to his doll.
Swanhilda spies the whole thing and takes the place of the Coppelia doll. The first scene ends with Swanhilda saving Franz and their escape.
In the final scene of act two, the lovers are getting married when Dr. Coppélius arrives to demand compensation for damaging his property. The mayor gives him money, and the show ends with a happy celebration. Sometimes, the second scene in act two is played as act three.
Coppelia Ballet Shows
San Francisco Ballet produced Coppelia in 1939, choreographed by Willam Christensen. This was the first fully American version. George Balanchine choreographed Coppelia ballet in 1974 for New York City Ballet company. He made changes to acts one and three using his ballet techniques.
Monte Carlo Ballet Company performed Coppelia in 2019. This was a modernized version for the contemporary audience. Find out more about Coppelia ballet shows on our website.