Skip to main
West Australian Ballet logo


Coppélia | 16 - 25 September

The story of COPPÉLIA

Act One

Prologue (Germany, 1878)

Young Coppélia is playing with her mechanical dolls when her father, Dr Coppélius, enters her room. He helps her pack away the doll and tells her it is time to leave – they are migrating to South Australia where he will be the doctor in the small German settlement of Hahndorf.

They board a ship for the long voyage, but Young Coppélia’s health is fragile and as they journey continues she becomes sicker. She dies just weeks before arriving in port, leaving her father heartbroken. Once in Adelaide, Doctor Coppélius is escorted by Mr Angus to the settlement of Hahndorf and his new home, but in his grief he shuts the door without speaking to anyone.

Scene One (Hahndorf, South Australia)

The next morning, the town of Hahndorf goes on with its usual daily activities and Mr Angus announces the arrival of the new doctor in town. But when Franz’s young sister is hit in the head by a football, and they call upon the doctor, the sight of the injured young girl is too much for him. He hides, and in his anger breaks his daughter’s mechanical doll. Suddenly he is struck by an idea which could restore his beloved Coppélia to him.

Scene Two (Five Years Later)

Swanilda and her friend Mary are intrigued by a beautiful young woman, Coppélia, sitting on Dr Coppélius’s balcony. They wave to the girl, but are surprised when the woman rudely ignores them. Swanilda’s sweetheart Franz arrives, and Swanilda hides to surprise him. Franz sees Coppélia on the balcony and bows to her. In that moment there is a flicker of lights and sounds inside the house and Coppélia lowers her book and blows a kiss in Franz’s direction. Swanilda is outraged and confronts him in anger, but walks away when he tries to explain.

The townspeople return victorious after a local football match and Swanilda tries to make Franz jealous by flirting with the captain of the team, Henry. Mr Angus announces that the new bell which he has commissioned for the church has arrived, and will be dedicated tomorrow. The celebrations are interrupted by a cacophony of noise and strange lights in Dr Coppélius’s house, and the town complains that the doctor is frightening and won’t treat them.

As the town goes to the pub to celebrate, Swanilda tests Franz’s faithfulness by the tradition of listening to an ear of wheat – if the wheat whispers, it means that her beloved is true. Unhappily, the wheat is silent. Mary gathers the other girls to console Swanilda.

The older folk encourage the young people to dance with them in the style of their forebears, and soon everyone is dancing together.

As night falls and everyone goes home, Dr Coppélius emerges. He is teased by a group of boys, and unknowingly drops his house key as he leaves. Finding the key, Swanilda urges her friends to enter his house. Just as the girls are sneaking in, Franz appears with a ladder. He clearly has the same idea and, narrowly avoiding detection by the returning doctor who is surprised to find his door open.

Act Two

As the frightened girls reach the workshop, they are shocked to find a collection of menacing figures, medical instruments, specimen jars and what seems to be arms and legs hanging from the ceiling. A brave Swanilda leads them on and they discover a machine with buttons and lights. They pull back a curtain and find Coppélia, realising that she is in fact a life-sized doll. Laughing with relief, they discover that they can bring the other figures to life with the machine and have fun dancing with the dolls.

However, Doctor Coppélius is furious to discover the girls and they scatter, all of them except Swanilda escaping the house. Hiding with Coppélia, Swanilda finds herself trapped until the doctor hears the noise of another intruder and gets ready to pounce.

Franz stealthily enters the room, quickly discovers the figures to be toys. Doctor Coppélius surprises Franz, then has an idea to use his spirit to give life to his precious Coppélia doll. He poisons Franz so he can connect his to a strange machine. The doctor goes to collect his doll, but his short sighted eyes don’t see that Swanilda has put on Coppélia’s dress and is pretending to be the doll. Horrified at seeing Franz in the machine, Swanilda pretends to come to life and playfully dances around the room.

As Doctor Coppélius realises he can’t control her, Swanilda tries to wake Franz. Franz eventually recognises that it is Swanilda, and not Coppélia, and soon the doctor realises he has been the victim of deception. As the couple escape, Doctor Coppélius collapses, exhausted, despairing that his dearest wish has been shattered.

Act Three

The new church bell is hung with great ceremony. Both Swanilda and Franz’s family are worried that they can’t find their children. Having escaped from Dr Coppélius’s workshop, Swanilda and Franz come upon Mary and Henry. As they are telling the story of their adventure, an angry Dr Coppélius confronts them, clutching his lifeless doll. In the scuffle which follows, Mary is knocked to the ground.

Shocked, Dr Coppélius revives Mary and makes his peace with the townspeople. To cheer everyone up, Mary’s father plays a tune and all the young couples in town dance a romantic waltz. Franz proposes to Swanilda, who joyfully accepts, and all join in the celebrations while Doctor Coppélius finally opens his practice.