Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has become the new general director of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. Previously, he served as chief conductor at the Marinsky Theater since 1988. URA.RU provides a biography of a famous cultural figure.
Valery Abisalovich Gergiev was born on May 2, 1953 in Moscow into an Ossetian family. Father Abisal Zaurbekovich was a battalion commander during the Great Patriotic War, mother Tamara Timofeevna was involved in raising children. In addition to the son, the family had two daughters. One of them, Larisa, became a famous pianist. Valery Gergiev was named after the famous test pilot Valery Chkalov.
The boy spent his childhood in the city of Ordzhonikidze (now Vladikavkaz – approx. URA.RU). At the age of seven, Valery began studying piano and conducting at a music school, although he was more interested in football. Nevertheless, the love of music prevailed, and soon the boy became the best student. In addition, in secondary school Valery successfully coped with mathematics and took part in olympiads.
After graduating from school, Valery Gergiev moved to Leningrad, entering the Leningrad Conservatory in 1972, in the conducting class of Ilya Musin. In 1976, student Gergiev won the prestigious Herbert von Karajan International Conducting Competition in Berlin and in the same year won the All-Union Conducting Competition in Moscow.
Having received his education, Gergiev was hired at the Kirov Theater in 1977 as an assistant to the chief director Yuri Temirkanov. And the following year I stood behind the console for the first time, conducting Sergei Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace.
In 1981, Gergiev headed the State Symphony Orchestra of Armenia, and in 1988 he became the chief conductor of the Mariinsky Theater. With his arrival, a tradition emerged of holding thematic festivals dedicated to the anniversaries of legendary composers.
Mariinskii Opera House
In the 90s, the Mariinsky Theater received its historical name. Valery Gergiev and the orchestra began to actively tour the world at the invitation of an American concert agency. For five years he performed at the Metropolitan Opera in the USA, at the Royal Opera in London, at La Scala in Milan, and shone on the stages of Berlin, Paris, and Rome. The whole world learned about the Mariinsky Theater.
In 1993, Gergiev first held the Stars of the White Nights festival, which became an annual event. Foreign performers performed there along with domestic stars.
From 1995 to 2008, the Russian conductor became the chief guest conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. The conductor’s work schedule accommodated what seemed to be the impossible: 1-3 concerts per day, constant flights, tours and theater management.
In 1998, Gergiev founded the Academy of Young Singers, headed by the conductor’s sister Larisa Gergieva. This became an opportunity for many talented performers to shine.
The Mariinsky Theater under the leadership of Valery Gergiev began to present up to a dozen premieres per season, and the orchestra reached a new level. Not only new opera and ballet scores were mastered, but also an extensive symphonic repertoire: all the symphonies of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky and many other composers.
Among Gergiev’s projects implemented at the Mariinsky Theater are the organization of media broadcasting, online broadcasts of concerts, and the creation of a recording studio. In 2009, the Mariinsky brand was created, under which several dozen audio and video discs were released with symphonies and piano concertos by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, operas by Wagner, Massenet, Donizetti and others, recordings of Prokofiev’s ballets “Romeo and Juliet” and “Cinderella” and opera “The Gambler”.
In 2007, Gergiev became chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. In 2010, he headed the Faculty of Arts of St. Petersburg State University. In 2015, he left the London institution to take a similar position at the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.
With the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra, Gergiev took part in the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010. He was also present at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
In 2013, Gergiev was nominated for a Grammy Award for his performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances” with the London Orchestra. In May 2016, the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev performed at the Palmyra Amphitheater in Syria, liberated by the Syrian government army with the support of the Russian military.
This is not the conductor’s first humanitarian concert: in 2004, he organized a series of performances “Beslan. In the name of life” after the terrible events in Ossetia. In 2008, at the wave of Gergiev’s baton, music sounded in dilapidated Tskhinvali in memory of the victims.
For her musical and social activities, Valeria Gergieva was awarded three State Prizes of the Russian Federation (1993, 1998, 2015), the titles of People’s Artist of the Russian Federation (1996) and Hero of Labor (2013), and the Order of Alexander Nevsky (2016). He was also awarded high state awards from Armenia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, France, and Japan.
Gergiev’s political position
Currently, Valery Gergiev continues to lead the Mariinsky Orchestra. He does not interfere in politics in any way in 2022, although the entire world community pressed him after the February events. For this, many leading concert halls in Europe canceled their contracts with him and canceled their tours, and the Munich Philharmonic Theater fired him from his position.
In October 2022, the maestro was expelled from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music due to his refusal to condemn the events in Ukraine. The Russian has been a member of this organization since 2011. However, this did not force Gergiev to speak out against the Russian Federation.
Gergiev’s work for today
The conductor’s tour schedule is scheduled hourly. He holds the record for the number of concerts. As stated on its official website, the Mariinsky Orchestra, under the direction of Valery Gergiev, gives up to 760 concerts per season. On average, these are two or three concerts a day, which sometimes take place not only in different cities, but also in different countries.
Today Valery Gergiev directs a dozen festivals, several theaters and orchestras. In 2015, another position appeared – chief conductor of the Munich Orchestra.
In 2010, he became the only representative of Russia included in the list of 100 most influential people in the world according to Time magazine. And in 2014, Gergiev took part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Sochi, directing a children’s choir of thousands created on his initiative.