The Story —
In 1878, Dr Coppélius and his daughter Coppélia are migrating to South Australia, where he will be the
doctor in the small German settlement of Hahndorf.
During the long voyage to Australia, Coppélia’s fragile health deteriorates and she dies in her father’s arms.
In Hahndorf, Dr Coppélius is grief-stricken and shuts himself off from the townspeople, despite their entreaties for his medical help. When he smashes his daughter’s mechanical toy, he is suddenly struck by an idea which could restore his beloved Coppélia to him.
Five years later, Swanilda and her friend Mary are intrigued by a beautiful young woman, Coppélia, sitting on Dr Coppélius’s balcony. When she blows a kiss to
Franz and he enthusiastically returns the gesture, Swanilda is enraged.
Mr Angus, a wealthy landowner, tells the gathered townspeople that the new church bell has arrived, and the Pastor announces that it will be hung and dedicated on Sunday morning. The gathering is interrupted by a cacophony of noise and strange lights in Dr Coppélius’s house.
Swanilda tests Franz’s faithfulness by the tradition of listening to an ear of wheat – if the wheat whispers, her beloved is true. Unhappily, the wheat is silent.
The older folk encourage the young people to dance with them in the style of
their forebears, and soon everyone in the town is dancing together.
As night falls, Dr Coppélius emerges. He is teased by a group of boys, and unknowingly drops his house key. Finding the key, Swanilda urges her friends to enter his house. Franz has a similar idea.
Swanilda and her friends discover that Coppélia is in fact a life-size doll. When Dr Coppélius returns and drives the girls out in a rage, Swanilda manages to hide. Franz enters the workshop by climbing up a ladder.
Seizing the new intruder, Dr Coppélius tries to use Franz’s spirit to give life to his precious mechanical doll. Playfully masquerading as Coppélia, Swanilda dupes the doctor into thinking that his dearest wish has come true.
The new church bell is hung with great ceremony. Having escaped from Dr Coppélius’s workshop, Swanilda and Franz are telling Mary and Henry of their adventure, when they are confronted by an angry Dr Coppélius, 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. Franz proposes to Swanilda, who joyfully accepts, and all join in the celebrations.