Coppélia is based on a story by the German Romantic writer and composer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Essentially, it is a tale of infatuation with a mechanical dancing doll that appears to come to life. At the premier, and in the presence of Emperor Napoleon III, the sixteen-year-old Giuseppina Bozzacchi danced the role of Swanhilda. Bozzacchi created a sensation, and the house was continuously sold out for the next couple of weeks.
However, with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Bozzacchi danced Swanhilda for the 18th and last time on 31 August 1870. The Siege of Paris forced the closure of the Paris Opéra, and salaries could no longer be paid. Bozzacchi was forced to beg for food, and weakened by a lack of nourishment, became ill. She contracted smallpox and a high fever, and tragically died on the morning of her 17th birthday. Coppélia, on the other hand, became one of the best-loved classical works in the ballet repertory, and it is fittingly considered one of the greatest comic ballets of the 19th Century.
Léo Delibes: Coppélia