Coppelia was first performed in 1870 at the Salle Louvois, Paris. Choreography was by Arthur Saint-Leon and music by Leo Delibes. It is based on a story by ETA Hoffman, Der Sandmann (The Sandman) and was written by Saint-Leon and Charles Nuitter.

At the time of it's debut, most male parts were danced by females in France and Franz was danced by Eugenie Fiocre. The ballet was re-choreographed by Petipa in 1884 for the Imperial Ballet and Franz was danced by a man.

The story is a light hearted comedy, Act I starting with the inventor, Dr Coppelius putting a life-size doll in his window. Franz, who is engaged to Swanilda, becomes obsessed with the doll and Swanilda sneaks into the house to meet her rival.

In Act II Swanilda and her friends realise Coppelia is actually a doll and Dr Coppelius returns and the girls flee. Swanilda hides in the house and puts on the dolls clothes. Dr Coppelius needs to steal a soul to make the doll come to life and he drugs Franz in order to take his soul, but Swanilda helps them escape.

Act III sees the happy marriage of Swanilda and Franz.