An inventor, Dr Coppelius, made a life-size dancing doll, named Coppelia.
Franz, a young boy from the village falls in love with the doll, thinking that the doll is a real person and sets aside his true love Swanhilde. Swanhilde then dresses as the doll, pretending to make it come to life and ultimately saving him from an unfortunate end at the hands of the inventor.
The story begins during a town festival to celebrate the arrival of a new bell.
It was announced that anyone who becomes married will be awarded a special gift of money. Swanhilde and Franz plan to marry during the festival.
However, Swanhilde becomes unhappy with Franz because he seems to be paying more attention to a girl named Coppélia, who sits on the balcony of a nearby house. The house belongs to a mysterious and diabolical inventor, Doctor Coppélius.
Although Coppélia spends all of her time sitting without moving and reading, Franz is amazed by her beauty and wants to attract her attention.
Still upset with Franz, Swanhilde shakes an ear of wheat to her head: if it rattles, then she will know that Franz loves her. When she does this, she hears nothing. When she shakes it by Franz’s head, he also hears nothing; but then he lied and told her that it rattled. However, she does not believe him and runs away heartbroken.
Later on, Dr. Coppelius leaves his house and is attacked by a group of boys. After shooing them away, he continues on without realising that he dropped his keys.
Swanhilde finds the keys, which gives her the idea of learning more about Coppélia. She and her girlfriends decide to enter Dr. Coppelius’s house.
Meanwhile, Franz develops his own plan to meet Coppélia, climbing a ladder to her balcony.
(Act 2 and 3 combined)
Swanhilde and her friends find themselves in a large room filled with people. However, the occupants aren’t moving. The girls discover that, rather than people, these are life-size mechanical dolls!! They quickly wind them up and watch them move. Swanhilde also finds Coppélia behind a curtain and discovers that she, too, is a doll.
Dr. Coppelius returns home to find the girls. He becomes angry with them, not only for trespassing (entering without permission) but for also disturbing his workroom. He kicks them out and begins cleaning up the mess. However, upon noticing Franz at the window, Coppélius invites him in.
The inventor wants to bring Coppelia to life but, to do that, he needs a human sacrifice.
With a magic spell, he will take Franz’s spirit and transfer it to Coppélia. After Dr. Coppelius gives him some wine mixed with sleeping powder, Franz begins to fall asleep. The inventor then begins to work on his magic spell.
However, Dr. Coppelius did not get rid of all the girls; Swanhilde is still there, hidden behind a curtain. She dresses up in Coppelia’s clothes and pretends that the doll has come to life.
She wakes Franz and then winds up all the mechanical dolls to aid their escape.
Dr. Coppelius becomes confused and then saddened when he finds a lifeless Coppélia behind the curtain.
Swanhilde and Franz are about to make their wedding vows when the angry Dr. Coppelius appears, claiming damages.
Dismayed at having caused such an upset, Swanhilde offers Dr. Coppelius her dowry (an amount of money or property that a father gives to the bride before she gets married) in return for his forgiveness.
However, Swanhilde’s father tells her to keep her dowry and offers to pay Dr. Coppelius instead.
At that point, the mayor intervenes and gives Dr. Coppelius a bag of money, which calms him down.
Swanhilde and Franz are married and the entire town celebrates by dancing.