Valery Abisalovich Gergiev (Ossetic: Гергиты Абисалы фырт Валери; Russian: Вале́рий Абиса́лович Ге́ргиев) (born 2 May 1953) is a Russian conductor and opera company director. He is general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera. Valery Gergiev is the artistic director of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg.
In 1978, he became assistant conductor at the Kirov Opera, now the Mariinsky Opera, under Yuri Temirkanov, where he made his debut conducting Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace. He was chief conductor of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra from 1981 until 1985 the year he made his debut in the United Kingdom, along with pianist Evgeny Kissin, and violinists Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin, at The Lichfield Festival.
In 1991, for the first time, Gergiev conducted a western European opera company with the Bavarian State Opera in a performance of Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov in Munich. In the same year he made his American début, performing War and Peace with the San Francisco Opera. Since then he has conducted both operatic and orchestral repertoire across the world. Gergiev is also associated with numerous music festivals, including the White Nights festival in Saint Petersburg.
He became the chief conductor and artistic director of the Mariinsky in 1988, and overall director of the company, appointed by the Russian government, in 1996. In addition to his artistic work with the Mariinsky, Gergiev has worked in fund-raising for such projects as the recently built 1100-seat Mariinsky Hall, and intends to achieve complete renovations of the Mariinsky Theatre by 2010.
From 1995 to 2008, Gergiev was principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1997, Gergiev became principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. His current contract there runs through the 2007-2008 season.
In 2002, Gergiev was featured in one scene in the film Russian Ark, directed by Alexander Sokurov and filmed at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In 2003, he initiated and conducted at the Mariinsky Theatre the first complete cycle of Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung to be performed in Russia for over 90 years. The production's design and concept reflects many aspects of Ossetian culture. Gergiev conducted this production in Cardiff in 2006 at the Wales Millennium Centre, and in Costa Mesa, California in October 2006 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. This production was presented at the Lincoln Center in New York City in July 2007 to a great acclaim, and the run was completely sold out.
In 1988, Gergiev made his first guest conducting appearance with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). In his next appearance with the LSO in 2004, he conducted the symphonies of Sergei Prokofiev. This engagement led to his appointment in 2005 as the Orchestra's fifteenth principal conductor, succeeding Sir Colin Davis effective January 1, 2007. Gergiev's initial contract with the LSO was for 3 years. His first official concert as the LSO Principal Conductor was on 23 January 2007, as he was supposed to have conducted his first concert as LSO Principal Conductor on 13 January, but had to withdraw because of illness.
In October 2007 Gergiev took part in a unique holiday project featured in the 100th anniversary issue of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. A concert by Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra featuring piano virtuoso Lola Astanova became a part of a $1.59 million fantasy gift. The super concert is said to be hosted by the Emmy-winning American television personality Regis Philbin.
Gergiev has a reputation for a passionate, apparently abrasive, conducting style, and a tendency to grunt at the podium. He is a driven conductor who produces his best in pieces of great drama. He stated that his favourite composer is Sergei Prokofiev in his DVD recording of Prokofiev's Scythian Suite. He was awarded the 2006 Polar Music Prize together with Led Zeppelin.
Valery Gergiev emerged in the 1980s as one of the most exciting new conductors, particularly of opera and ballet, and has maintained and enhanced his reputation ever since. He is also known for the rather gruff, unshaven appearance he cultivates. Born in Moscow to Ossetian parents, he showed tremendous musical talent in early childhood. Deciding while still in his teens that he wanted to become a conductor, Gergiev entered the conducting class of Ilya Musin at the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) Conservatory. In 1975 and still a student, he won the All Union Conductors' Competition in Moscow in 1975. The following year, Gergiev won the Herbert von Karajan Conductors' Competition in Berlin. In 1977, the 24-year-old Gergiev was appointed assistant conductor at the Kirov Opera under Yuri Temirkanov. He made his debut the next year, conducting Prokofiev's immense opera War and Peace... More...