A Synopsis of the Ballet, Coppélia - Act 1

The Truth About Love and the Beauty of Coppélia

Act I

The story begins during a town festival in celebration of a new town bell that is due to arrive in the coming days. Anyone who wants to be married on that day will be awarded with a special gift of money. Swanilda is engaged to Franz and plans to marry during the festival. Swanilda asks Franz if he loves her and he answers yes, but she senses a lack of sincerity in his reply. She becomes unhappy with her fiancé because it seems he is more interested in getting another girl’s attention.  

The girl is Coppélia who sits on the toy-maker Dr. Coppelius’s balcony reading all day long, paying no heed and showing no care for anyone trying to be social with her. Franz is mesmerized by her beauty and is determined to get her attention. Swanilda is deeply hurt by his distractions and feels he does not love her despite his answers.

Because she doesn’t trust his words, Swanilda decides to turn to an old wive’s tale for guidance.  She holds up an ear of wheat to her ear; if it rattles when she shakes it, then she will know that he loves her. She shakes the wheat furiously, but no rattle can be heard. Confused and upset, she has Franz do the same thing.  He tells her it does rattle. She does not believe him and runs away heartbroken.

When Dr. Coppelius leaves his house, he is heckled by a group of small boys. After running them off he finally goes on his way not knowing that he dropped his keys in the process of chasing the boys away. Swanilda finds his keys and is determined to find out more of Coppélia. She and her friends decide to go inside Dr. Coppelius’s house. Meanwhile, Franz develops his own plan to meet Coppélia. He climbs up a ladder to Coppélia's balcony.

Act II

Swanilda and her friends find themselves in a large room filled with people, but these people aren't moving. The girls discover that these are not people, but life-size mechanical dolls. They quickly wind them up and watch them move. In her searching, Swanilda finds Coppélia behind a curtain and discovers that she, too, is a doll.

When Dr. Coppelius returns home, he finds the girls in his house. He becomes angry not only for getting into his house, but for also messing up his workroom, and kicks the girls out. Dr. Coppelius begins cleaning up the mess and notices Franz coming into the window. Instead of shooing him away, he invites him in. Dr. Coppelius wants to bring Coppelia to life and in order to do that, he needs a human sacrifice. His magic spell will take Franz’s life and transfer it to Coppélia. Dr. Coppelius gives Franz some wine laced with sleeping powder and Franz begins to fall asleep. Dr. Coppelius then readies his magic spell.

When Dr. Coppelius kicked the girls out, Swanilda stayed and hid behind a curtain. Swanilda dresses up in Coppelia’s clothes and pretends to come to life. She wakes up Franz and quickly escapes by winding up all of the mechanical dolls. Dr. Coppelius becomes saddened to find a lifeless Coppélia behind the curtain.


Swanilda and Franz are about to say their vows when the angry Dr. Coppelius shows up. Feeling bad for causing such a mess, Swanilda offers Dr. Coppelius her dowry in return for his forgiveness. Swanilda's father tells Swanilda to keep her dowry. He pays Dr. Coppelius instead because it was a special day. Swanilda kept her dowry and Dr. Coppelius was awarded his own bag of money. Swanilda and Franz get married and the entire town celebrates by dancing.