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, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maid Fevronia and The Tsar’s Bride, 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 Holländer 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 Walküre, Siegfried and Die Götterdämmerung in the original German, a unique and unprecedented event in Russia.
In the recent 2004-2005 season alone, the Mariinsky Opera Company presented seven premieres – Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride and The Tale of Tsar Saltan, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Rigoletto, Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.
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), a Prokofiev Festival (1991, 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 had a great influence on 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.
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.
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 Théâtre du Châtelet.
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 (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. From 1 January 2007 Valery Gergiev will be Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.
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. The Mariinsky Theatre’s summer tours to London have long since become a tradition. The most recent performances by the Mariinsky Theatre on the famed stage of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, took place in July and August 2005. The tour began with performances of ballets in the classical repertoire as well as one of the theatre’s latest acquisitions – the ballets of William Forsythe. The opera company staged performances of Musorgsky’s Khovanshchina and Boris Godunov and Puccini’s Turandot before the London public.
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.
Maestro Gergiev´s artistic achievements have brought him many awards and titles. He holds the titles of Honoured Worker for the Arts of Russia (1983) and 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. As Best Conductor, he was awarded the Russia´s highest theatre prize Golden Mask (1996 –2000) and the St Petersburg´s highest theatre prize Golden Sophit, in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2003. In 1998, Philips Electronics awarded him a special prize for his outstanding contribution to music, which he donated to the development of the Mariinsky Theatre Academy of Young Singers. In 2000, Valery Gergiev was made a full member of the International Academy of Arts. In the same year, he was awarded the highest prizes of Russia – the Order of Friendship and Armenia – the Order of St Mesrop Mashtots. Maestro 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. 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. He was also awarded the medal In Commemoration of the Tercentenary of St Petersburg. 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. Valery Gergiev has been 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 2004, 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”. Valery Gergiev has also been awarded the Order of Danaker, presented by the Government of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.
In September 2005 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands made Valery Gergiev a Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion. As the royal decree proclaimed, the Russian musician received this eminent Dutch award for his exceptional character, international importance and his worldwide activities in music.
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