Coppélia : Work information

(Clément Philibert) Léo Delibes ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Carl Davis (Conductor)

This work

Work name
Work number
1870-00-00 02:00:00

This recording

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Matthew Dilley
Recording date

Track listing

  • Prelude 6:34 min
  • Festtanz & Studenwalz 6:25 min
  • Notturno 2:43 min
  • Musique Des Automates 5:14 min
  • Czardas 3:42 min


Based on a story by E.T.A Hoffmann, Coppelia was first produced in Paris on 2 May 1870 at the Theatre Imperial de l'Opera. Its charm and melodic appeal instantly established Delibes as a major composer, and it has remained one of the most popular of all classical ballets. In the wake of its success, Delibes was able to give up the post of chorus master at the Opera and concentrate on composition full time.

The plot, by Arthur Saint-Leon and Charles Nuitter, concerns a toy-maker, Coppelius, who attempts to create a life-like doll to pass off as his daughter Coppelia. The sinister elements of Hoffmann's Der Sandmann were mostly removed, and the final act is a celebratory series of dances.

There are many musical gems to be discovered in the score; as in Tchaikovsky's ballets, Delibes' gifts for melody are plainly evident. Highlights include the Czardas, Mazurka, and Valse. They display an elegance and a lightness of touch that are immediately appealing.

The Composers

(Clément Philibert) Léo Delibes

Delibes was born in France in 1836, and studied at the Paris Conservatory of Music.  Although he acheived no real distinction while there, he began to develop his style, and after graduating became famous as a master of ballet with his second work, Coppelia (1870).

It was not long until Delibes began composing opera and operetta.  Le Roi l'a dit (1873) was his first opera, performed at the Opera-Comique.  Jean di Nivelle (1880) and Lakme (1883) brought Delibes to the forefront of French stage composers.  Lakme was tremendously popular at the time, for the Far Eastern romance and mystery in its tale of love between a British officer and the daughter of an Indian priest.  Two of its songs, the Flower Duet and the Bell Song, are particularly well known today.  After his opera period, Delibes wrote a lot of religious music, including Les Filles de Cadiz.

Delibes was appointed professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory in 1881, and in 1884 was made a member of the Institut de France.  His final opera Kassya was finished by Massenet after Delibes' death in 1891.  His music is still frequently heard, attractive for its vivid melody and rich orchestration which highlights the voice beautifully.

- MIDI FILE - from "Lakme": Flower Duet (1'08'')