Coppélia is a sentimental comic ballet with original choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon to a ballet libretto by Saint-Léon and Charles Nuittier and music by Léo Delibes. It was based upon a macabre story by E.T.A. Hoffmann entitled "Der Sandmann" ("The Sandman"), published in 1815. The ballet premiered May 25, 1870 at the Paris Opera, with Giuseppina Bozzachi in the title role. Its first flush of success was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War and the siege of Paris, but eventually it became the most-performed ballet at the Opera Garnier.
The team of Saint-Léon and Nuittier had a previous success with the ballet La Source (1860), for which Délibes had contributed some of the music. The story concerns a mysterious and faintly diabolical inventor, Doctor Coppélius who has made a life-size dancing doll. It is so life-like that Franz, a village swain is infatuated with it, setting aside his true heart's desire, Swanilde, who in Act II shows him his folly, by dressing as the doll and pretending to come to life. The festive wedding-day divertissements in the village square that occupy Act III are often deleted in modern danced versions, though one of the entrées was the first czardas presented on a ballet stage. If Mary Shelley's Frankenstein represents the dark side of the theme of scientist as creator of life, then Coppelia is the light side. If Giselle is a tragedy set in a peasant village, then Coppélia is a comedy in the same setting. The part of Franz was danced en travestie, a convention that pleased the male members of the Jockey-Club de Paris and was retained in Paris until after World War II.
Giuseppina Bozzacchi, the original Coppélia, a young student dancer just turned sixteen, was expected to have a great career ahead of her but caught cholera during the siege of Paris and died on her seventeenth birthday.
Some influence on this story comes from travelling shows of the late 18th and early 19th centuries starring mechanical automatons. This field of entertainment has been under-documented, but a recent survey of the field is contained in The Mechanical Turk by Tom Standage (2002). These shows were later to also influence Charles Babbage in his invention of the difference engine.
Coppélia's Casket (Kopperia no Hitsugi) is the title of opening theme song of the Japanese anime Noir, the tale of two female assassins. Coppélia's Casket makes several references to the story of Coppélia such as, "People are dolls tired from dancing."
Also mentioned is the line "Coppélia's Heartbeat" also translated as "Coppélia's Pulse" something that an automaton would not possess, and neither would one be laid to rest in a casket.