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Music Text

Libretto by Peter Siefert, after ETA Hoffmann (G)


S,M/A,T,Bar,B,speaking role,silent role;
1st version: 1(=picc).0.1(=bcl).1(=dbn)-;
2nd version: 1(=picc,afl).1(=corA).1(=bcl).1(=dbn)-perc(2)-pft(=cel)-db

Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes / Bote & Bock

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Opera Stabile, Hamburg
Company: Hamburgische Staatsoper


THE MOTHER, also SPALANZANI Contralto / Mezzo Soprano
THE FATHER silent role
KLARA, also OLIMPIA Soprano
COPPELIUS alias COPPOLA, also servant Tenor
Grey forms, Voices speaking roles
Time and Place

During the Biedermeier period of silent films


Nathanael bids his mother, his fiancée and her brother Lothar farewell to travel to the city where he wants to study. There, in his student digs, he is roused from his sleep one night. A strange figure enters the room, opens a suitcase from which a magic light issues and shows the terrified Nathanael a collection of eyes in all sizes. Nathanael recognizes in the figure, who introduces himself with a strong Italian accent as "Mechanikus speziale", the lawyer Coppelius, who had met his parents often when he was a child and was involved in his father's death in a strange way. Traumatic experiences from his childhood rise up, depriving Nathanael of his mental stability. Had not his mother, every time he was afraid of the uncanny guest, told him about the sandman who visits children who do not want to go to bed, throwing sand into their eyes so that they "jump out of their head covered with blood"?

Siegmund introduces Nathanael to the college of the famous physicist Spalanzani, who uses Nathanael as a guinea pig with his experiments on mental reflexes. Nathanael falls in love with Olimpia, Spalanzani's daughter who is, however, only a mechanical doll. Reality and phantasmagoria mingle beyond distinction. Nathaneal’s life ends in insanity and suicide.


Romantic, Tragic

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