Maestro Gergiev will be conducting a marathon of Prokofiev concerts at the BBC Proms in London
Maestro Gergiev will be conducting a marathon of Prokofiev concerts at the BBC Proms in London.
28 July will see Valery Gergiev’s traditional performance at the annual BBC Proms series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. Today the maestro will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra – an ensemble of which Valery Gergiev was invited to become Principal Conductor in 2004 following a triumphant performance of a series of all of Prokofiev’s symphonies. Symbolically, this year the maestro will again be presenting a Prokofiev “integral” – just one evening will see a performance of all five of Prokofiev’s piano concerti. the festival’s audience will have the unique opportunity to hear three internationally acclaimed pianists and compare their interpretations. Two concerti will be performed by Sergei Babayan, two by his pupil Daniil Trifonov and in Piano Concerto No 4 (for the left hand), commissioned by the one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein and rarely performed on the concert stage, the solo will be performed by Alexei Volodin.
The marathon of Prokofiev’s piano concerti is a project that Valery Gergiev has run several times with different orchestras both in Russia and abroad. In April 2012 this cycle was performed at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre as part of the III International Piano Festival. In the autumn of 2014 it featured on several occasions during the Mariinsky Orchestra’s international tours under the baton of maestro Gergiev, including at the Age of Prokofiev festival in Germany and Austria as well as at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts in China.
The traditional cultural invasion of the International Music Festival in Baden-Baden by the Mariinsky Theatre has caused a veritable furore in the international press
The traditional cultural invasion of the International Music Festival in Baden-Baden by the Mariinsky Theatre has caused a veritable furore in the international press. The Mariinsky’s new production of The Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky, the anniversary of whose birth is being widely celebrated this year, symphony programme and concert performance of Berlioz’ grandiose opera duologue Les Troyens drew the attention of a huge number of German, French and Italian critics.
Alexei Stepanyuk’s monumental production is at the crossroads of Russian and western aesthetic ideals, embodying the inherent ambivalence of St Petersburg, a crossroads between East and West. The stage director and production designer have created a production that arouses a mass of associations: there is a reference to Adolph von Menzel’s painting Flute Concerto of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci, there are scenes with ghosts in the spirit of the French romantic opera Robert le Diable by Giacomo Meyerbeer, there is the Hoffmannesque demonism that leads to inevitable disaster and there are pastoral scenes that hint at theatre of the late Baroque period. As a result, The Queen of Spades comes across as a true “grand opéra” in the new Mariinsky Theatre production.
The vocal side of the production will also not leave the audience unaffected with its inspired dramatic acting combined with Slavonic timbres. Although it must be admitted that Mikhail Vekua (Hermann) at times unnecessarily forced the sound, which apart from anything else affected the proper nature of the intonation. A much more favourable impression was made by the voice of Irina Churilova (Liza), standing out for the lyrical warmth and evenness throughout the entire range. Of particular note in the brilliant cast of soloists was the free-flowing and velvet baritone voice of Alexei Markov (Prince Yeletsky), who presented an incredibly convincing image as a rival and antipode of Hermann. Two mezzo-sopranos must also be mentioned – Yekaterina Sergeyeva (Polina) with her intense and also pliant voice and the dark and nuance-rich vocals of Elena Vitman (the Countess).
It is superfluous to say that for Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra this was absolutely “doing what they do best”, brilliantly conveying the duplicity of the “St Petersburg text” of Tchaikovsky’s opera. (Alexander Dick, Badische Zeitung)
The strong side of this production lies in the realism of the narrative, in the important reality of the behaviour of the characters, which can arouse deep emotions and feelings in the audience regardless of a specific era or time. Mikhail Vekua’s Hermann is a vulnerable person, gloomy and despondent, aimlessly wandering among the finely-dressed representatives of the higher echelons of St Petersburg society (costumes by Irina Cherednikova), whose refined tenor voice, at times somewhat restrained in the piano, can take on the power of passion, and sometimes even achieve piercing sharpness. Irina Churilova is enchanting with her incredibly warm and even soprano with its full upper register, which can produce both expressive nuances of doubt and tragic despair. Alexei Markov as Prince Yeletsky, Roman Burdenko as Count Tomsky and Anna Denisova as Prilepa were vivid members of this exemplary cast of singers with staggeringly beautiful voices and strong acting skills, truly engaged with one another in the performance. The kind of theatre ensemble culture seen with the Mariinsky Theatre is now almost impossible to find in Germany.
Of course, the figure of the Mariinsky Theatre’s Artistic Director Valery Gergiev is associated with the most incredible enjoyment of music. He, like no-one else, magically draws melting sounds of languor and nostalgia from the orchestra, he highlights the vocal phrases with gentle flutes and mournful oboes, he spreads out velvety carpets of the strings under the singers’ feet. (Isabel Herzfeld, Badisches Tagblatt)
A wonderful production from the point of view of comprehensibility, its timeless classical qualities and pliant beauty. At the same time, this visually lavish production was not just a feast for the eyes, but for the ears too. Mikhail Vekua created a dazzling image as Hermann. Initially he appeared weak and unconfident in his over-long coat, his voice lacked clarity. But soon it became clear that this was intentional, as little by little he proved himself, displaying Napoleonic resolve and revealing exceptional energy and liveliness. Irina Churilova was very convincing as Liza, her voice sounds beautiful and strong. Loving passion, the torture of doubt and despair – the young soprano demonstrated the entire range of colours, making the audience empathise with her heroine. To a great extent Roman Burdenko has all the qualities for a successful performance of the role of Tomsky. But it was Alexei Markov’s sonorous and powerful baritone that was most affecting in the role of Yeletsky, particularly in the scene of his declaration of love for Liza, when he displays such a vocal gift that touch the hearts of even the most passionless people. Elena Vitman’s performance as the Countess was also beautiful.
Naturally one of the key components of the success of the evening was the performance by the Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev. (Catherine Jordy, Forumopera.com).
The most powerful part of the performance was the music. Valery Gergiev’s immense experience with this score was clear to be seen in the clarity and originality of his interpretation, combining three-dimensional sound images with passionate tension. Of course, we must also note the brilliant work of the chorus and orchestra in this opera, which had its world premiere one hundred and twenty-five years ago at the Mariinsky Theatre itself. And so this evening the audience had a unique opportunity to hear the real Tchaikovsky.
The vocal cast of the first performance was also magnificent. Mikhail Vekua as Hermann demonstrated an impressive vocal culture and a complex and ambiguous image in the role. Irina Churilova gave a heartfelt performance as Liza. As Prince Yeletsky Alexei Markov demonstrated a luxuriant baritone and Russian bel canto. Elena Vitman sang well as the Countess, possibly even too well for such a sinister character. (Karl Georg Berg, Die Rheinpfalz)
In the Symphonie fantastique Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra took a gamble with the new effects that were first used by Berlioz. These worried the composer’s contemporaries and continue to have an effect today when they are produced so decisively, passionately and abundantly. The orchestra displayed an almost limitless scale of colours and shades. The wind and percussion sections deserve particular mention. The audience thanked the performers for this dazzling display with lengthy applause and endless shouts of “bravo”. (Birgitta Schmid)
Gergiev gives the orchestra the chance to enjoy the sound, visually embodying the contradictions of Berlioz’ alter ego. (Christian Euler)
The musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra follow the tiniest movements of the tips of their principal conductor’s fingertips, and this is evidence not just of discipline but – to no less a degree – of the inspiration, passion and dedication which essentially transforms these separate and diverse individuals into an organism that breathes as one, feels the same emotions, and turns these emotions into sound. Gergiev’s interpretation is remarkable for its very particular sensitivity and pliancy. Without a conductor’s podium, standing at eye-level with his musicians, the maestro turns to separate sections, and can even come right up close to intensify the effect, becoming part of the orchestra, so to speak. This intimacy is absolutely and totally suited for the mysterious and confessional nature of the Symphonie fantastique. (Isabel Herzfeld)
In Les Troyens, from the very first bar Gergiev inspires the huge cast of soloists, the chorus and the Mariinsky Orchestra and confidently leads them through all five acts. The maestro underscores the classical majesty of the large choral scenes and leads the ensembles with a steady hand of theatrical drama. Didon (Ekaterina Semenchuk) demonstrates perfect command of her voice, and the expressiveness of her performance constantly grows. As a tragic actress she is rivalled by Mlada Khudoley as the prophetess Cassandre.
In the large ensemble of Trojans and Carthaginians of particular note were the bass Yuri Vorobiev as Narbal as well as the refined and stylish Chorèbe of Alexei Markov. (Nikolaus Schmidt)
The dramatic intensity and engaging dynamics as well as the wealth of colour which we see in the score of Les Troyens is presented to us by Gergiev and his orchestra in staggering fashion. The musicians under his baton, however, produce not only incredibly grandiose music, but also of incredible refinement. At the centre of attention, as with Berlioz, we have strong female characters. In the first part we have Cassandre who prophesies doom, which Mlada Khudoley embodies with the incomparable expressiveness of her timbre-rich soprano. Just as huge was the majestic mezzo-soprano voice of Ekaterina Semenchuk, who revealed the entire emotional range of her heroine Didon, abandoned by Énée, from loving nostalgia and despair no unrestrained fury. Alexei Markov created a lyrically intense image as Chorèbe, Cassandre’s fiancé, and Yekaterina Krapivina as Didon’s sister Anna stood out for her even and flexible mezzo-soprano. (Thomas Weiss)
Ekaterina Semenchuk presented a divine image as Didon. From the first recitative she enthralled the public with her majesty and magnificent command of French. Here was a true sovereign and queen! Her impressive vocal technique and the beauty of the timbre of her imperious and dazzling voice completely matched the stage image. Mlada Khudoley was also notable for her perfect enunciation, she interpreted the complex and highly diverse role of Cassandre with delicacy and passion, with differing nuances. Alexei Markov may be congratulated on his ideal performance as Chorèbe. His voice, weighty, colourful and radiant, was as captivating as the singer’s physical image. This baritone is a true hero, and his impeccable French was a pure delight. I would pick out Yuri Vorobiev as Narbal with his stunning low notes. A truly wonderful surprise came with the exceptional performance of the role of Anna by the very aristocratic Yekaterina Krapivina. The dark and velvety contralto of this surprisingly delicate young woman was truly exceptional. The ensembles, particularly the octet, were a pure delight. Conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra, with emotion, inspiration and dynamism Valery Gergiev recreated the epic pathos of Berlioz’ score. (Catherine Jordy, Forumopera.com)
This major festival of classical music, held each year in the very heart of the Swiss Alps, always eagerly anticipates the arrival of guests from the Mariinsky Theatre. Two years ago the finest opera singers under the baton of maestro Gergiev commemorated the Year of Verdi and Wagner at the festival with performances of the operas Otello (featuring Anna Netrebko, Alexei Markov, Aleksandrs Antonenko and Francesco Demuro) and Die Walküre (featuring Bryn Terfel, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Iréne Theorin).
This time Valery Gergiev and two internationally acclaimed Russian pianists – Denis Matsuev and Daniil Trifonov – will be presenting a programme of works by Mozart, Ravel and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, whose anniversary is being celebrated this year.
As part of the symphony concert, maestro Gergiev will conduct the Verbier Festival Orchestra in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Pathétique Symphony and Ravel’s Boléro, thus paying tribute to Maya Plisetskaya, the great Russian ballerina and friend of the Mariinsky Theatre who died in May this year.
The main intrigue of the evening will be a performance of Mozart’s Triple Piano Concerto, in which Valery Gergiev will be appearing not just as a conductor but also as a piano soloist together with his colleagues Denis Matsuev and Daniil Trifonov.
The international star of opera speaks about her new solo programme at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, her favourite roles and her recording of Aida.
– Could you please tell us why you chose such a complex programme for your recital?
I've wanted to perform romances by these two contemporary composers in one concert programme with Dmitry Yefimov for a long time. If we hear Sergei Rachmaninoff’s works quite often, sadly you can’t say the same of Nikolai Medtner: he is undeservedly little-performed, but he wrote music of incredible beauty and philosophical depth. Their fates were similar in that they both emigrated, taking with them the culture of the intelligentsia of pre-revolutionary Russia to America and Europe.
– Recently there has been a great deal of news about you in the foreign press. But at the Stars of the White Nights festival this year you provided a generous gift for your fans with your appearances in a series of performances and a recital with a new programme.
Yes, I’ve really had a lot of performances abroad – mainly in Verdi’s operas. And this season I made my debut at the Wiener Staatsoper as Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. But I’d really like to expand my Russian repertoire. I dream of Clytemnestra in Taneyev’s Oresteia and Lyubasha in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride. This summer one of my dreams came true – at the Mariinsky Theatre I sang one of the most complex roles written for a dramatic mezzo-soprano – the role of Lyubov in the opera Mazepa by Tchaikovsky in a performance conducted by Valery Gergiev, for which I am eternally grateful to him!
– It seems rather odd that to date at the Mariinsky Theatre you have not performed the role of Marfa in Musorgsky’s Khovanshchina, your voice has long been ready for it and dramatically you would find the perfect embodiment.
I’ve been offered the role of Marfa, but I’d really like to “grow” the role here, at the Mariinsky Theatre. I hope it’s on the not-too-distant horizon – for me it would embody one of my most cherished dreams. But, as the famous American mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne wrote in her memoirs, everything in her life came at the right time. The acclaimed German singer Lilli Lehmann sang well into her old age, retaining the suppleness and beauty of her voice. I prefer to take the point of view that it’s better not to tackle everything at the same time but to let your voice serve you as long as possible, I want my voice to retain its elasticity, beauty, dazzle and power. The art of singers who are older but sound young may truly be called “high class”. For me, one such example is my teacher Yevgenia Stanislavovna Gorokhovskaya.
– Last season saw the release of Verdi’s Aida with you and one of the present day’s greatest conductors, Antonio Pappano, as well as a stellar cast of soloists including the tenor Jonas Kaufmann and the soprano Anja Harteros. Was that Aida the latest word in terms of interpreting this “textbook” opera?
I’ll openly admit that this was unexpected, but I’d wanted it for a long time. I received the invitation from maestro Antonio Pappano several years ago. Prior to that I had worked with him at the Salzburg Festival in Verdi’s Don Carlo and sung under him in Verdi’s Requiem with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. I also felt a sense of duty in that it had been many years since Aida had been recorded in the studio. Our recording sessions lasted just over ten days, it involved hours-long sets every day. But I never felt tires at all. You got a positive mood during the recording process thanks to the fruitful communication between the musicians. The recording really was freely inspirational. No-one had any problems with their voices – it was all so natural. It was an ensemble of super-professionals.
– Not so long ago at the Mariinsky-II you performed as Carmen in a new style – without violent emotions or frosty pathos, very intimate and sincere. What led you to such an unexpected yet incredibly interesting and deep reading of the role?
I truly believe that I brought my performance as Carmen as close as possible to what the composer would have wished to hear. In any performance there is always a place for intimacy, you shouldn’t be afraid of using your mezzo voce, the voice has to be insinuating and yet at the same time it has to be relatively simple and easy, as in Carmen’s first aria – the Habanera. Everyone has become used to a loud sound, but I wanted to sing what Georges Bizet and Prosper Mérimée wrote, to share my own experience of understanding this mysterious role. It did it the way my heart, feelings and experience told me. And I’ve a lot of experience of working on Carmen with different musicians, I’ve done about fifteen productions, including an appearance at the famous Arena di Verona festival. The role was born as a result of a lengthy process that lasted many years. In December last year I was able to perform as Carmen with maestro Valery Gergiev, and that was a tremendous event in my life.
Speaking with Vladimir Dudin
On 19 July Valery Gergiev will be visiting Monaco for a performance with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo as part of the extensive cultural programme The Year of Russia in Monaco 2015. As one of the key events of this programme, maestro Gergiev’s concert will take place at the Palais Princier in the presence of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II.
It is well-known that the idea of running The Year of Russia in Monaco emerged during a meeting between the Russian President and the Prince of Monaco in autumn 2013. A total of one hundred and forty events were planned, including twenty-six concerts, four ballets and three operas. The programme of The Year of Russia in Monaco aims to emphasise the value of the two countries’ shared cultural legacies and the historic and cultural ties between the two States. It will also feature other spheres of collaboration between Monaco and Russia, such as science, education, sport, food and fashion.
William Barton, one of the finest didgeridoo players in the world, speaks about this instrument and the work Kalkadungu for didgeridoo and orchestra that he composed together with Matthew Hindson
William Barton, one of the finest didgeridoo players in the world, speaks about this instrument and the work Kalkadungu for didgeridoo and orchestra that he composed together with Matthew Hindson. William Barton will play this piece at the Mariinsky Concert Hall on 19 July with the Mariinsky Youth Orchestra under Daniel Smith.
– You play the didgeridoo, which is probably the oldest wind instrument in the world. From your experience, what would you describe as the main challenge in playing this instrument?
– I think, the main challenge is to attire to a certain level of expression where you can engage freely with the audience and to tell the story and communicate with your colleagues on stage as well as adapt freely as an improviser. As a musician who composes structured music and also plays the didgeridoo for over twenty five years by now, I believe that the story-telling process is very important – and that’s what I learnt from my ancestors.
– What is so extraordinary and unique in the sound of the didgeridoo that is likely to surprise a listener who has decided to attend the concert on 19 July?
– It is a very raw sound of the Earth. It is one of the first sounds my ancestors would have heard or, say, would have engaged with musically. It is like a bass drum in a band, or, the cello for that matter, because it has a really low resonance of the landscape and that’s why contemporary Australian classical music really lent itself well to this sort of collaboration between the didgeridoo and the orchestra.
– As a co-author of Kalkadungu, what kind of things would you advise listeners who are probably hearing this piece for the first time to pay particular attention to? Is there something specific about the rhythm, or the sound of the didgeridoo, or the orchestration or, say, the general form of this work?
– It is the overall form of the work. Say, in its second movement, where I actually enter from the audience and walk through the audience up to the stage, I am singing a special song that I wrote when I was a fifteen-year-old boy. And so the whole work has evolved and was created from that chant, and then working with Matthew Hindson we figured out other movements that we need to write, and the didgeridoo actually appears toward the very end of the piece, so listeners have to wait to hear the sound of the didgeridoo until the end.
– As you have performed Kalkadungu in a number of countries, and this work is something very Australian, how does the reception of this unusual piece vary in different countries and cultures?
– I think people will find something that they can hopefully relate to any country even if if is only one movement, or the simplicity of me singing the song, traditional song in my language of the Kalkadungu people while the orchestra holding a sustained pedal note, or the interaction of the didgeridoo with the bass drum solo before the final movement and how rhythmically the didgeridoo relates to other instruments even though I wrote the bass part component of the didgeridoo quite free and improvised because I am adapting to the environment where we are going to play the piece. And so I hope people will enjoy this piece and the sound of Australia expressed through it.
In the new season Rossiya-Kultura TV’s project Grand Ballet will feature two couples from the Mariinsky Theatre – Nadezhda Batoeva and Ernest Latypov and Renata Shakirova and Kimin Kim will meet with colleagues from other Russian theatres at the competition.
In 2012 the first-ever Russian TV dance competition Grand Ballet proved a remarkable event in ballet: there were new dancers, new productions by highly diverse choreographers, comments by an authoritative jury and the filming process not just of the dancers’ final results but also a look behind the scenes at the preparation of their repertoire with the lively and heartfelt emotions of the participants. Three years ago at this forum the Mariinsky Theatre presented one couple – Viktoria Tereshkina (not competing) and Andrei Yermakov. Kristina Shapran, today a Mariinsky Theatre soloist and at the time of filming a soloist with the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Musical Theatre, won the Audience Award at the time.
Next season, the project will see performances by fourteen dancers from six Russian ballet companies. As on previous occasions, the professional jury this season will feature people from St Petersburg: the competitors’ performances will be assessed by Svetlana Zakharova, Yevgenia Obraztsova and Farukh Ruzimatov, all former Mariinsky Theatre soloists. The jury will also include Vladimir Vasiliev, Natalia Osipova, Brigitte Lefèvre and Professor Xiao Suhua from the Beijing Dance Academy. The programme will be introduced by Ilze Liepa and Andrejs Žagars.
Filming will take place from 28 July to 6 August, and the premiere of the new Grand Ballet will be televised in the autumn of 2015. Meanwhile, Nadezhda Batoeva and Ernest Latypov, who this season significantly expanded their solo repertoires, Renata Shakirova who joined the company just half a month ago but who has already danced numerous roles at the Mariinsky Theatre and Kimin Kim, recently promoted to the rank of Principal, under the guidance of Yuri Fateyev and his coaches will be rehearsing their concert repertoires, which will feature both classical dance and contemporary choreography.
– During your previous visits to St Petersburg you have conducted all-Mozart and all-Ravel programmes, and now your concert features three works, each composed nearly a century apart from each other. What is the main challenge for you as a conductor in such programming and what is the main idea behind it?
– The main challenge for everyone who is playing in the orchestra as well as me is that we have to adapt to three different works immediately, especially during the concert. The most important thing for me is to be instantly able to change my mind to be prepared for the next work while conducting the previous piece without loosing a focus on the music that I’m conducting at that time. The pieces in the programme are chosen in such way that the start is light but gradually becomes heavier by the end of the concert, so a particular thing about this programme is the energy, or rather the mental energy to sustain for the whole programme.
– How does Kalkadungu fit into a programme that also features Dvořák and Beethoven’s Eroica?
– The piece Kalkadungu was programmed originally. It represents some tragic moments in the history of Australia. Along with Dvořák’s Carnival concert overture and Beethoven’s Eroica I intend to show a form of life, which is represented in the first piece – it is about celebrating the life, although in the middle of this piece there is a moment when some sadness comes. Then the programme continues with Kalkadungu, which begins in a sad mood, then there is a battle in the middle, and then it moves onto the idea of hope. Then, in the Beethoven, it starts with the hope in the Eroica, there is a personal depression in the second movement, but the symphony ends with the grand finale. So the entire program is about the life of a human being and various kinds of emotions a human might experience. I think Kalkadungu fits naturally between Carnival and Eroica.
– What is so extraordinary and unique in the piece Kalkadungu that is likely to surprise a listener who has decided to attend the concert on 19 July?
– Well, of course the presence of the didgeridoo itself! William Barton is one of the greatest didgeridoo players in the world. And this is really a new instrument that appears with the orchestra – there are not so many works composed for didgeridoo and orchestra. The audience will be shocked (in a positive way) with the sound of the orchestra because Australian music is rather different to what orchestras around the world usually play. Kalkadungu is a modern piece but in a particular way of expression. The audience will hear sounds of Australian animals played on the didgeridoo, but the orchestra players will also have to produce these sounds with their traditional instruments. The work also employs other instruments that are not usually played in the orchestra – for example, eucalyptus trees will be used at some point.
– If you were to plan a programme for your next concert at the Mariinsky, what work by a Russian composer would you include to conduct, if any?
– Before I came to Russia for the first time, of course I loved Russian music but I don’t think I understood it entirely, because I didn’t experience Russian culture, communication with Russian people, Russian cuisine. Every time I come back I learn more, which is interesting to me. I think, if I come back and if I am to conduct Russian music I would like to bring an interpretation of Russian music by myself as someone outside of Russia and so I would be delighted to conduct the Tchaikovsky cycle, in particular, his Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 and 6. Tchaikovsky is the composer that, so to speak, takes me into a different world when I am conducting his music. I conduct quite a lot of Tchaikovsky’s music outside of Russia, but it will be a great privilege for me to conduct his music in Russia one day.
Soprano Albina Shagimuratova speaking about the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan (16 and 17 July)
– Your most recent engagements include the roles of Lucia, Violetta and the Queen of the Night. You sing at the great opera houses – Covent Garden, the Metropolitan, the Bolshoi and the Bayerische Staatsoper. And now you’re singing as the Swan-Princess, a role you performed at the Stanislavsky Theatre from 2004–2006. Have you missed it?
– Yes, I really have. I sang the role in the opera in 2004 and my partner was Mikhail Vekua as Guidon. I never thought I’d be singing it again after so many years, and at the Mariinsky Theatre and that I’d be partnered by Mikhail again. It all happened thanks to being invited by maestro Gergiev. One year ago we produced a recording of the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, and now it’s a production.
I was amazed by the beauty of the choral scenes and Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestration when I heard this opera for the first time. I remember that in 2004 I found quite a few difficulties with the role of the Swan-Princess. It’s complex musical language, dense, and at times there’s the powerful orchestra that you have to get over... But now, returning to it after so many years and having gained experience, I find it easy to sing as the Princess.
– Who is the most important person in an opera for you – the stage director, the conductor or your on-stage partner?
– It’s hard to say who’s most important. Although for me personally the conductor is a vital component of any good performance. But my partners on the stage also play a key role. With a good professional singer you get a spark when you’re on-stage and it’s easy to sing with people like that.
– Is there any role that you’ve not yet sung but would really love to sing?
– I really want to sing Marfa in The Tsar’s Bride. I haven’t heard a good performance of that opera for a long time. I dream of singing the title role in Massenet’s Manon and Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. And to perform the entire bel canto repertoire of Bellini and Donizetti. It’s been a long-standing dream of mine to perform the title role in Bellini’s opera Norma.
– Is there any difference between Russian audiences and audiences abroad?
– Audiences are different everywhere, but the Italians are very demanding. They don’t love anyone, even their own Italian singers. Of course, performing mainly in the West, it’s lovely to come back to Russia and sing for my favourite audience.
During the Mariinsky Theatre’s tour to the International Music Festival at the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden there was a grand ceremony to award maestro Gergiev a medal, marking two centuries of cultural collaboration between Russia and Baden-Baden. The decision to award Valery Gergiev the first anniversary medal was taken by the German-Russian Cultural Society as a token of appreciation for the tremendous contribution that the Russian conductor and his team have made to the cultural development between Russia and Germany.
The start of the relationship between Russia and Baden-Baden on a State (dynastic) level through the German-Russian Cultural Society can trace its roots back to 1793 when the heir to the Russian throne Alexander Pavlovich (later Emperor Alexander I) married Louise of Baden, the daughter of Margrave Charles Louis of Baden, who took the name of Elizabeth Alexeyevna. This cultural exchange began in 1815 when, as one of the leaders of the Vienna Congress and organisers of the Holy Alliance, Alexander I and his wife undertook several visits to Baden-Baden. The example of the imperial family was followed not just by numerous representatives of Russia’s aristocratic families but by a whole plethora of great Russian poets, writers and musicians as well.
According to the director of the Baden-Baden Festival Andreas Mölich-Zebhauser, awarding the anniversary medal to maestro Gergiev is a “mark of respect to an internationally acclaimed conductor, whose role in the life of our festival truly cannot be overrated. It was Valery Gergiev who in an incredibly short period of time was able to replace maestro Solti who died too young and take to the podium of the Festspielhaus in 1998. It was Gergiev who found sponsors for the festival at financially difficult times. And, lastly, it is maestro Gergiev and his orchestra that, from one year to the next, have enhanced the festival programmes with their performances.”
The motto engraved on the medal reads “Peace, Harmony and Prosperity” and according to representatives of the German-Russian Cultural Society is highly symbolic, and the maestro’s significant achievements in culture may serve as an example for similar collaboration in other spheres of public life.