Swanhilde and Franz are about to get married, but Franz seems to be paying more attention to Coppelia, a mechanic doll created by a solitary and mysterious old man, Coppelius. Attempts to explain to the young man that his recent object of desire is an inanimate being are vain; Swanhild shall use more ingenious stratagems. She breaks into Coppelius’ apartment and waits hidden behind the curtains. Coppelius invites Franz to his place and tries to get him drunk, in a secret endeavour to steal his soul and transfer it into Coppelia’s body. But Swanhilde, dressed up like Coppelia, tricks Coppelius and manages to run away with her lover.
Drawing its inspiration from The Sandman written by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Coppelia established Delibes’ fame in the Parisian musical scene. But created in May 1870, Coppelia’s success did not last. Soon a revolutionary movement, La Commune, sparked off and plunged the French capital into a deadly conflict, a conflict during which the young Giuseppina Bozzachi, who created Coppelia’s role, died aged only 17.
A classic, Coppelia’s score has inspired some of the most outstanding choreographers: Arthur Saint-Léon, Marius Petipa, George Balanchine,… and at last Maguy Marin, who sets her choreography in a contemporary urban environment, giving a perfume of reality to this fantastic plot.