Gergiev carries a disproportionate share of the music world on his shoulders. He is something of a national hero in Russia for having kept alive the Mariinsky Theatre after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under his leadership, the Mariinsky has become one of the most celebrated – and recorded – opera companies in the world.
The New Yorker (1998)
As the star conductor he undoubtedly is, Gergiev is one of those conjurors of sounds who can draw the audience to them in such a way that it feels the earth move.
Böblinger Bote (2000)
We have all marvel Valery Gergiev at his truly inspirational music-making, which, alongside his totally unbelievable energy, passion for music, and great qualities of friendship and idealism, have forged him a unique place in the world of music"
The Guardian (2005)
<Gergiev> has turned the Mariinsky Theatre with its centuries-old traditions into the world’s most dynamic opera and ballet company, nurturing an endless stream of brilliant singers and dancers. The maestro fully deserves his rating by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world today.
The Times (2010)
Valery Gergiev graduated from the Leningrad State Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire in symphony conducting under Professor Ilya Musin. At the age of twenty-three 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 (now the Mariinsky). At the age of thirty-five, Valery Gergiev was appointed Artistic Director of the Opera Company, and since 1996 he has been Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre.
At the Mariinsky Theatre Gergiev has overseen the emergence of a plethora of world-acclaimed singers. Under his direction, the theatre’s opera and ballet repertoire has expanded significantly. Today it encompasses a broad range of works from 18th to 20th century classical masterpieces to works by contemporary composers.
Highlights include performances of every opera by Prokofiev and Shostakovich at the Mariinsky Theatre, as well as the return of Wagner’s operas Lohengrin, Parsifal, Der Fliegende Holländer and Tristan und Isolde to the St Petersburg stage. For the first time in the history of Russian theatre, Gergiev staged a production of Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen in the original German (2003), the Western European premiere of which in Baden-Baden (2004) was feted by the German media as a truly historic event in world music. in June 2005 Der Ring des Nibelungen was performed to great acclaim in Moscow, and later in South Korea and Japan. In the 2006–2007 season, Wagner’s tetralogy was performed in the USA, Great Britain and Spain. In 2009 Gergiev oversaw an international production of Berlioz’ operatic duologue Les Troyens, which resulted in a series of concert performances of this work by the Mariinsky Orchestra, Chorus and soloists in Russia, Israel and the USA.
Gergiev has established and directs such international festivals as the Gergiev Festival (the Netherlands), the Moscow Easter Festival and the Stars of the White Nights festival (St Petersburg), which Austria’s respected Festspiele Magazin listed as one of the world’s ten greatest festivals.
Thanks to the Valery Gergiev’s efforts, the Concert Hall was built in 2006, which has significantly broadened the repertoire possibilities of the company and the orchestra. This stunning theatre and concert complex is remarkable for its outstanding acoustics. The Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre hosts performances of operas and philharmonic programmes, and it also produces recordings of works for the Mariinsky label. Established on the initiative of Valery Gergiev in 2009, the Mariinsky label has released more than twenty-five discs to date. In 2010 its recording of the opera The Nose – the label’s first project – received a MIDEM Classical Award.
The maestro devotes much attention to programmes for children and young people and he has revived the practice of offering subscriptions for this audience group as well as gratis concerts for students.
Valery Gergiev is also well-known for his active stance with regards to the protection of humanistic ideals. the maestro initiated the worldwide series of charitable concerts Beslan: Music for Life 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 in Tskhinval).
Since 2007 Valery Gergiev has been Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and he also collaborates with the Wiener Philharmoniker, the orchestra of La Scala and the New York and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras. He is a member of the Council for Culture and Art of the President of the Russian Federation and heads the Organisational Committee of the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition.
In February 2010 the Academic Council of the St Petersburg State University elected Valery Gergiev Dean of the Faculty of Arts.
For his services to music and to society, Valery Gergiev has been the recipient of numerous awards and prizes. These include the title of People’s Artist of Russia (1996), the State Prize of Russia (1994 and 1999), Germany’s Bundestverdienstkreuz, first class, “For Services”, Italy’s Grand’ufficiale dell’Ordine al merito, France’s L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Netherlands’ Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion, Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun, the honorary title UNESCO Artist of the World and the Polar Music Prize from the Swedish Royal Academy of Music. Of the three Russian orchestras included in the list, the Mariinsky was ranked highest. One of the maestro’s most recent awards was the prize of Great Britain’s Royal Society of Music as Conductor of the Year (2009). In 2009 Great Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Society named Valery Gergiev “Conductor of the Year”. 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 2011 Valery Gergiev was made Honorary President of the Edinburgh International Festival. In November 2011 respected French magazine Classica named him “Artist of the Year.” In April 2012 the Academic Council of the Moscow State University passed a resolution to award Valery Gergiev the title of Honorary Doctor of the Moscow State University while in November 2012 the maestro received the title of Honorary Professor of the St Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire. In May 2013 Valery Gergiev was awarded the title of Hero of Labour of the Russian Federation.