Valery Gergiev: Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev is one of the leading figures in world culture. In 1988, he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre, and in 1996, he became its Artistic and General Director.
Since Valery Gergiev was given this post, the Theatre’s opera and ballet repertoire has expanded significantly. Today, it includes an incredibly broad range of operas by Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Musorgsky and Tchaikovsky in addition to 20th century European classics such as operas by Leoš Janáček, Richard Strauss, Dmitry Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, Benjamin Britten and Rodion Shchedrin.
One of the maestro’s greatest achievements has been the revival of the tradition of performing operas in their original languages. A first in the history of Russian theatre, Gergiev conceived and oversaw the Mariinsky Theatre’s production of Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen in German (2003), which has received critical acclaim in Russia as well as being successfully staged in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom (the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden) and the USA (the Metropolitan Opera).
Valery Gergiev dedicates much attention to operatic works by contemporary Russian composers such as Alexander Smelkov and Nikolai Karetnikov and other young composers who have been given the opportunity to bring their ideas to life at the Mariinsky Theatre.
The ballet repertoire of the Theatre, justifiably known as “the house of Petipa”, now reflects a wide range of contemporary trends in choreography, ranging from George Balanchine’s Neoclassicism to avant-garde works by William Forsythe. Over the past ten years, the Theatre’s repertoire has expanded to include works by 20th and 21st century choreographers such as Kenneth MacMillan, Harald Lander, John Neumeier, William Forsythe, Hans van Manen, Pierre Lacotte and Alexei Ratmansky.
The maestro is deeply committed to programs for children and young people. The Mariinsky Theatre has revived the practice of subscription performances for these audience groups, as well as staging gratis concerts for students in Moscow, St Petersburg, and other cities throughout Russia.
With the appointment of Valery Gergiev as the Theatre’s Director, the Orchestra’s repertoire has also become increasingly rich and diverse. In addition to operas and ballets, its repertoire now includes symphonic works and other genres of philharmonic music. Under his baton, the Orchestra has performed every symphony by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Mahler and Beethoven, Requiems by Mozart, Verdi, Berlioz and Tishchenko and various works by Messiaen, Dutilleux, Shchedrin, Gubaidulina and Giya Kancheli among numerous other composers. The heady development of the Orchestra’s philharmonic programmes has been aided and abetted by the construction of the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, built on the initiative of Valery Gergiev in 2006.
In 2008, following a survey of leading music critics for major music publications in America, Asia and Europe, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra was included in a list of the world’s top twenty ensembles.
May 2009 saw the establishment of the Mariinsky label on Gergiev’s initiative, and to date it has released sixteen discs including recordings of Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal, Shostakovich’s First and Fifteenth Symphonies, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Les Noces, Rodion Shchedrin’s The Enchanted Wanderer and Mischievous Folk Ditties and various works by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Recordings are made using state of the art technology at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre with its unique acoustics. In just its first year, the Mariinsky label released seven discs. In 2010 its recording of the opera The Nose – the label’s first project – received a MIDEM Classical Award.
Valery Gergiev has established and directs such international festivals as the Gergiev Festival in Mikkeli (Finland), the Gergiev Festival in Rotterdam (Netherlands), the Red Sea Classical Music Festival (Eilat) and the Moscow Easter Festival.
Valery Gergiev is the director of and the inspiration behind the Stars of the White Nights festival in St Petersburg, which he founded in 1993. In 2009, the Stars of the White Nights festival was listed as one of the ten greatest music festivals in the world.
The maestro also directs a further four international festivals held at the Mariinsky Theatre and the Concert Hall – New Horizons, Maslenitsa, Brass Evenings at the Mariinsky and the MARIINSKY ballet festival.
Valery Gergiev initiated collaboration between the Mariinsky Theatre and the world’s other leading opera houses, among them the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Teatro Carlo Felice, the San Francisco Opera, the Teatro alla Scala, the New Israeli Opera and the Théâtre du Châtelet.
In the 2004–2005 season, Valery Gergiev initiated a world-wide series of charity concerts entitled Beslan. Music for Life. Under the maestro’s direction, concerts were held in New York, Paris, London, Tokyo, Rome and Moscow. In August 2008, the maestro conducted a requiem concert in front of the ruined Government House of South Ossetia.
Today, Valery Gergiev is one of the world’s greatest conductors. He is Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and he collaborates with the Wiener Philharmoniker, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
Maestro Gergiev’s artistic achievements have earned him many awards and titles. Valery Gergiev is a People’s Artist of Russia (1996) and a recipient of the State Prize of Russia for 1994 and 1999. In 1994, the jury of the International Classical Music Awards conferred upon him the title of “Conductor of the Year.” As Conductor of the Year, he has been awarded the Golden Mask, Russia’s most prestigious theatre prize, on several occasions (from 1996 to 2000). In 1998, Philips Electronics awarded him a special prize for his outstanding contribution to music, which he donated to the development of the Mariinsky Academy of Young Singers. Valery Gergiev has also been awarded prestigious government prizes by Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz), Italy (Grand Ufficiale al Merito) and France (L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres). In March 2003, the maestro received the honorary title of Artist of the World from UNESCO. In 2005, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands made Valery Gergiev a Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion. The same year, Valery Gergiev was awarded the Polar Music Prize by the Swedish Royal Academy of Music. In 2006, Valery Gergiev was awarded a Record Academy Award for his recording series of all of Prokofiev’s symphonies with the London Symphony Orchestra as well as Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun. And this is far from an exhaustive list of the many prizes and awards he has received.
In 2008, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra under Valery Gergiev was included in the list of the world’s top twenty ensembles as published in the December issue of Gramophone magazine. Of the three Russian orchestras on the list, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra was best-rated. In May 2010 Valery Gergiev was awarded Europe’s Glashütte Original Music Festival Prize for his support of talented young musicians.
In 2009, Great Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Society named Valery Gergiev “Conductor of the Year” (2009). One of the maestro’s most recent awards has been the European Glashütte Original Music Festival Prize for his support of talented young musicians.
In February 2010, the Academic Council of the St Petersburg State University elected Valery Gergiev Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He is also a member of the Culture and Arts Council of the President of the Russian Federation and he heads the organisational committee of the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition.
In September 2011, Valery Gergiev was made Honorary President of the Edinburgh International Festival. In accordance with a resolution by the Expert Council of the Moscow State University, Valery Gergiev was awarded the title of Honorary Doctor by the University in April 2012.
The Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre enjoys a long and distinguished history as one of the oldest musical institutions in Russia. Founded in the 18th century during the reign of Peter the Great and housed in St. Petersburg’s famed Mariinsky Theatre since 1860, the Orchestra entered its “golden age” in the second half of the 19th century under the musical direction of Eduard Napravnik, whose leadership for more than a half century (1863-1916) secured its reputation as one of the finest in Europe.
Numerous internationally famed musicians have conducted the Orchestra, among them Hans von Bülow, Felix Mottl, Felix Weingartner, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Otto Nikisch, Willem Mengelberg, Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter, Erich Kleiber, Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg.
Renamed the “Kirov” during the Soviet era, the Orchestra continued to maintain its high artistic standards under the leadership of Yevgeny Mravinsky and Yuri Temirkanov. The leadership of Valery Gergiev has enabled the Theatre to forge important relationships for the Mariinsky Ballet and Opera to appear in the world’s greatest opera houses and theatres, among them the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center, the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, the San Francisco Opera, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Salzburg Festival and La Scala in Milan.
The success of the Orchestra’s frequent tours has created the reputation of what one journalist referred to as “the world’s first global orchestra.” Since its US debut in 1992 the orchestra has made 15 tours of North America, including a 2006 celebration of the complete Shostakovich symphonies, a Cycle of Stage Works of Prokofiev in 2008, major works of Hector Berlioz in February/March 2010, and a Centennial Mahler Cycle in Carnegie Hall in October 2010. In October 2011 The Mariinsky Orchestra will open Carnegie Hall’s 120th season and will present a cycle of Tchaikovsky Symphonies on both the east and west coast and in Canada.
The 2009 and 2010 releases of the new Mariinsky Label are Shostakovich “The Nose”, Symphonies Nos. 1 & 15, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 and “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”, Tchaikovsky 1812, Shchedrin “The Enchanted Wanderer” and Stravinsky “Les Noces” and “Oedipus Rex”.
The 2011 recording releases have included Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 2 & 11, Wagner “Parsifal”, Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 3 & 10, Donizetti “Lucia di Lammermoor” and the fall 2011 releases will include DVD/Blu-ray of Tchaikovsky Symphonies Nos. 4, 5, 6 and Balanchine’s ballet “Jewels”.
November 2006 marked the grand opening of the Orchestra’s Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall and Spring 2013 will mark the opening of Mariinsky II, a new theatre placed alongside the historic and fabled Mariinsky Theatre.