Maestro Valery Gergiev
Artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre and "Stars of the White Nights" festival.
Born on 2nd May 1953 in Moscow.
Graduated in symphony conducting from the Leningrad Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire (class of Professor Musin). At age 23, he won the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition in Berlin and, while still a student at the Conservatoire, was invited to join the Kirov Theatre.
Conducted at the Kirov Theatre from 1977. From 1981-85, he was also Principal Guest Conductor with the State Symphony Orchestra of Armenia.
At the age of 35, Valery Gergiev was appointed Artistic Director of the Opera Company and, from 1996, has been Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre.
Throughout his years of dedication to the theatre, the Maestro's main aim has always been to make the Mariinsky Opera Company the best in the world. Over the last fifteen years, the repertoire has undergone unprecedented development. The Mariinsky Theatre has staged operas including Mozart's Don Giovanni, Musorgsky's The Sorochinsky Fair, Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, Verdi's Otello, Aida, La forza del destino, Don Carlos, Macbeth, Un ballo in maschera and La traviata, Prokofiev's Fiery Angel, The Gambler, War and Peace, Betrothal in a Monastery and Semyon Kotko, Rimsky-Korsakov's The Maid of Pskov, Sadko, Kashchei the Immortal and The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maid Fevronia, Shostakovich's Katerina Ismailova, Strauss' Salome and Tchaikovsky's Mazepa, The Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin. The return of Wagner's operas Lohengrin, Parsifal and Der Fliegende Hollander to the St Petersburg stage are among some of the highlights, to say nothing of the production of the entire Ring des Nibelungen tetralogy of Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung in the original German, a unique and unprecedented event in Russia.
Valery Gergiev is the founder and artistic director of many international music festivals including For Peace in the Caucasus (Vladikavkaz), the Mikkeli Festival (Finland), the Red Sea Festival (Eilat), the Kirov Philharmonic (London), the Rotterdam Philharmonic-Gergiev Festival (the Netherlands) and the Moscow Easter Festival. He organised and ran a Musorgsky Festival (1988), Prokofiev Festivals (1991 and 1992), presenting a wide spectrum of the composer's works including four opera premieres (War and Peace, Love for Three Oranges, The Gambler and Fiery Angel), several symphonies and cantata-oratory works, and a Rimsky-Korsakov in the 20th Century festival (1994), which greatly influenced world musical culture. Lastly, of course, Valery Gergiev is also the inspiration and energy behind St Petersburg's annual Stars of the White Nights festival, which he established in 1993.
It was Valery Gergiev who first envisaged artistic co-operation between the Mariinsky Theatre and the world's leading opera houses, among them the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, the Teatro Carlo Felice, the San Francisco Opera, La Scala, the New Israeli Opera and the Theatre du Chatelet.
Valery Gergiev is one of the finest conductors of our time. He works with such renowned ensembles as the Berliner Philharmoniker, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (the UK), L'Orchestre National de France, Swedish Radio Orchestra and the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Minnesota, Montreal and Birmingham. He has been Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic since 1995 and of the Metropolitan Opera from 1997 to 2002.
Under Valery Gergiev's management, the Mariinsky Theatre has toured extensively, performing to great acclaim in countries all over Europe, in North and South America, China, Japan and Australia.
Special mention must be made of the now long established partnership between Maestro Gergiev and Philips, which has resulted in the production of over thirty compact disc recordings. Together with the Mariinsky Theatre and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras, he has conducted recordings of operas, ballets and concert programmes from his vast repertoire which includes works by Russian and non-Russian composers alike, among them Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Bizet, Berlioz, Verdi, Brahms and Bruckner.
Valery Gergiev holds the title of People's Artist of Russia (1996). In the same year, the jury of the International Classical Music Awards conferred upon him the title of Conductor of the Year. He was awarded the State Prize of Russia in 1994 and 1999. In 1998, Philips Electronics awarded Maestro Gergiev a special prize for his outstanding contribution to music, which he donated to the development of the Mariinsky Academy of Young Singers. In 2000, he was awarded Russia's prestigious Order of Friendship and Armenia's Order of St Mesrop Mashtots. Valery Gergiev has also been decorated with Germany's Bundesverdienstkreuz (first class), Italy's Grand Ufficiale al Merito and France's L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2002, he received the Russian Presidential Prize for his outstanding contribution to arts and sciences. In March 2003, he was made an Artist of the World by UNESCO. In April 2003, he was decorated with the order For Services to the Fatherland, third class, for his contributions to music. In June 2003, the Patriarch of All Russia Alexei II awarded Valery Gergiev the Order of St Prince Daniil of Moscow of the Russian Orthodox Church, third class, for participating in charitable and cultural programmes of the Russian Orthodox Church. In November 2003, Valery Gergiev was presented with the National Pride of Russia award in the category "For an outstanding contribution to cultural development" and Russia's highest public award For Work and the Fatherland.
In January 2004 he was awarded the Crystal Prize for his dedication to the arts and his contribution to cultural dialogue; the prize was presented by the World Economic Forum in Davos. In April, Valery Gergiev was made a People's Artist of Ukraine, the country's highest State award, in recognition of his "important contribution to the development of cultural relations between Ukraine and Russia and his many years of fruitful activity".
One of the maestro’s most significant achievements has been a return to the performance of operas in the original language. For example, on the initiative and under the direction of Valery Gergiev the Mariinsky Theatre staged the first ever German language version of Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen in the history of Russian theatre (2003), which received great acclaim not just in Russia but also when performed on tour in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Great Britain and the USA.
The orchestra’s repertoire has also become significantly richer and more varied. In addition to operas and ballets it now includes symphony music and works in other genres of philharmonic music. The maestro has conducted the orchestra in performances of every symphony by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Mahler and Beethoven and works by Stravinsky, Messiaen, Dutilleux, Shchedrin, Tishchenko, Gubaidulina and Kancheli among myriad other composers.
Thanks to Gergiev’s efforts, 2006 saw the opening of the Concert Hall, which significantly broadened the repertoire possibilities of the company and the orchestra. Essentially the most ideal concert venue in Russia because of its exceptional acoustic qualities, the Concert Hall has facilitated the production of recordings on the Mariinsky label which the maestro founded in 2009. To date the label has released over twenty-five discs that have received lavish praise from the press and public alike. Currently two of the label’s most important projects are recording all of Shostakovich’s symphonies and Wagner’s entire tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Maestro Gergiev has organised and directs several international music festivals including the Moscow Easter Festival, the Mikkeli Festival (Finland), the Rotterdam Festival (The Netherlands) and Samara’s To Mstislav Rostropovich festival. Gergiev directs and is at the heart of the annual Stars of the White Nights festival in St Petersburg which he founded in 1993 and which was listed as one of the world’s ten greatest music festivals in 2009. Moreover, the maestro is also Artistic Director of other Mariinsky Theatre festivals including the New Horizons contemporary classical music festival, Maslenitsa, Brass Evenings at the Mariinsky and the Mariinsky ballet festival.
Gergiev is known for his active stance in the defence of humanitarian ideals. The maestro initiated a series of international charitable concerts entitled Beslan. Music in the Name of Peace which took place in New York, Paris, London, Tokyo, Rome and Moscow. In August 2008 Valery Gergiev conducted a requiem concert before the ruined building of Government House in South Ossetia (Tskhinval). On 14 March 2011 the maestro performed Verdi’s Requiem in memory of the victims of a tragedy in Japan, while one year later he took part in a charity concert in Tokyo. In September 2012 Mariinsky Theatre performers and Gergiev gave their support to victims of a flood in Kuban.
As one of the greatest conductors in the world, Gergiev collaborates with the finest orchestras. Since 2007 he has been Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra with which he appears at the Barbican Centre, the BBC Promsfestival and the Edinburgh Festival in addition to touring throughout Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia. He also works with the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna, New York and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras and the orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, while from 2015 he is Principal Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2014 the Children’s Chorus of Russia, founded on the initiative of Valery Gergiev on the basis of the All-Russian Choral Society, first performed a programme at the Mariinsky-II before taking part in the grand closing ceremony of the XXII Olympic Games in Sochi. In 2013 Valery Gergiev became Director of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, founded in New York on the initiative of Carnegie Hall. The orchestra’s first international tour took place with violinist Joshua Bell and featured concerts in Washington, Moscow, St Petersburg and London. Maestro Gergiev dedicates much to his attention to working with young musicians. He has appeared with the youth orchestras of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the Verbier Festival and the Pacific Ocean Music Festival in Sapporo.
In 2010 Gergiev was elected Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the St Petersburg State University. He also joined the Council for Culture and the Arts of the Russian President and headed the organisational committee of the International Tchaikovsky Competition. In November 2011 France’s respected Classica magazine named him “Artist of the Year”. In 2012 he was awarded the titles of Honorary Doctor of the Moscow State University and Honorary Professor of the St Petersburg Conservatoire, while one year before that the maestro became Honorary President of the Edinburgh International Festival. On 1 May 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded maestro Gergiev the first title of Hero of Labour of Russia.