Cork Opera House

The dramatic demands inherent in any production of Gisellealmost outweigh its strenuous requirements of technique and atmosphere. This most difficult of fusions is achieved by the lead dancers gathered by artistic director Alan Foley for this Cork City Ballet presentation of one of the oldest ballets still in the repertoire.

Initially a common-place story of a simple village girl who, misinterpreting as undying love the attempts of a young nobleman to seduce her, breaks down and dies on discovering the truth. Originally Theophile Gautier’s response to a German legend, it is in the second act that the plot takes on its spectral quality with Giselle joining the ranks of jilted, dead and vengeful (well, who wouldn’t be?) ghosts, rising from their graves at night and forcing any passing (but who would be?) man to dance himself to death.

Ekaterina Bortyakova is an endearing Giselle, her butterfly lightness springing from footwork of glancing accuracy and emphasising her innocent personality. As a ghost, her technical assurance is just as strong but is infused with a tenderness which makes her defense of her remorseful lover one of the most compelling moments in ballet, lyrical and even likely.

As penitent seducer, Albrecht is much more than a crane to hoist Giselle into a series of evanescent lifts; the second act again reveals Akzhol Mussakhanov at his best both in dancing and drama. Performances of commensurate poise come from Leighton Morrison, Andrea Palacios, Hannah Windows and Fenella Cook dancing with a beautifully-costumed corps de ballet to the music of Adolphe Adam recorded by the Russian State Orchestra.

Inadequate setting and lighting and the lack of an orchestra – which meant that the audience ate and chatted through both overtures as if nothing is happening until you can see it – are deficiencies totally forgiven as the phantoms depart the moonlit stage in a froth of triumphant tulle.

– Run finishes tonight at the Wexford Opera House