Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Valery Abisalovich Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre

In the world of Russian music, the name of Valery Abisalovich Gergiev, general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, is well known. Valery Abisalovich Gergiev was born on the 2nd of May 1953 in Moscow to Ossetian parents and raised in his family's native Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, in the Caucasus. 

by Olivia Kroth

When he lived there as a child, the North Ossetian Autonomous Soviet Republic rapidly developed its railways and industry, using the natural resources of copper, silver, zinc, timber and mineral waters. Today, about 712.000 people live in North Ossetia, a federal subject of the Russian Federation. The ethnic groups in this mountainous republic of 8.000 square kilometres are Ossetians, Russians, Ingush, Armenians, Kumyks and Ukrainians.

Tourism is well developed in North Ossetia, with programmes for spas and resorts, making use of the ample mineral water sources. There are about 250 therapeutic mineral springs, with daily reserves of 15.000 cubic metres. This water provides the basis for North Ossetian health spas. Furthermore, it is bottled and sold. North Ossetia's mineral water is famous for its special mineral composition and unique healing qualities.

Vladikavkaz, where Valery Abisalovich Gergiev grew up, is the capital of North Ossetia, with a population of 512.000 inhabitants today. The city has evolved as a transport and industrial centre, with companies processing lead, zinc, chemicals, clothing, food products and machinery. The city is served by Beslan Airport, located in a proximity of 15 kilometres. 

From 1972 to 1977, Valery Abisalovich Gergiev studied at the Saint Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, where his conducting teacher was Professor Ilya Musin. In 1978, he became assistant conductor at the Mariinsky Opera, giving his conducting debut with Sergei Prokofiev's "War and Peace." From 1981 to 1985, Valery Abisalovich Gergiev was the chief conductor of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra in Yerevan.

In 1988, he became chief conductor of the Mariinsky Opera. Since 1996, Valery Abisalovich Gergiev has been working as the Mariinsky's artistic director and manager. The Maestro has remained true to his mission, to transform the Mariinsky into the best opera and ballet company on the globe. In 1993, he created the famous White Nights Music Festival of Saint Petersburg.

In the Caucasus, Valery Abisalovich Gergiev has been a constant supporter of peace. After the Beslan School Massacre in September 2004, he conducted concerts worldwide to commemorate the victims. His series of Beslan concerts were called "Music in the Name of Life." 

During the Georgian war against South Ossetia, in the summer of 2008, he came to Tskhinvali to conduct a concert near the building of the South Ossetian Parliament, which had been ruined by Georgian bombs. In an interview with the Scotsman of Edinburgh, Valery Abisalovich Gergiev asked, "Do you know how many were burned alive?" 

He was fiercely critical of the Georgian government. "The world should know the truth about what happened," the conductor said. Valery Abisalovich Gergiev has extended family living in North and South Ossetia. "It is really hard, very bad, very dangerous for our families there," he told the Scotsman, in 2008.

Valery Abisalovich Gergiev has recorded the works of many notable Russian composers, such as Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857), Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov (1844-1908), Sergei Prokofiev (1901-1953), Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) and Rodion Shchedrin, born in 1932. For his achievements, Valery Abisalovich Gergiev earned the titles People's Artist of Russia, in 1996, and People's Artist of Ukraine, in 2004.         

He also received the Order of Friendship, in 2000, and a medal, In Commemoration of the 300th Anniversary of Saint Petersburg, in 2003. In addition, Valery Abisalovich Gergiev was decorated with two Orders of Merit for the Fatherland, in 2003 and 2008. He is an Honorary Doctor of the Saint Petersburg State University and Honorary Professor of the Moscow State University.

An appraisal in the Scotsman of Edinburgh, where he is a well known festival conductor, judged that "Valery Gergiev's energy puts others in the shade. He is a caged whirlwind of energy. Valery Gergiev's style of conducting is known for its intensity. He is one of the finest conductors in the world, with a staggering array of appointments. His work at the Mariinsky proves that he is not just a gifted conductor, but a genius administrator and fundraiser as well."

About his recent appointment as Sochi 2014 Ambassador, Valery Abisalovich Gergiev has this to say, "I think that everybody who can make a contribution to the Sochi 2014 Games should do so, strongly and unsparingly. We can work alongside the organizers of the Olympic Games, to contribute to the reputation of Sochi 2014."

Russia pulses in Valery Abisalovich Gergiev's heart. He is a true Russian patriot. Russia lives in his soul. 

Ah, the Russian soul!


Prepared for publication by:

Lisa Karpova