He was already almost the director of the Great Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. Both institutes embody the absolute pinnacle of the Russian classical world: each consists not only of a theater, but also of a symphony orchestra and a ballet company. And at that summit now sits Gergiev, as the newly crowned czar of the Russian cultural world.
For anyone else, his appointment as director of the Bolshoi Theater would be the culmination of a brilliant career. On the other hand, for 70-year-old Gergiev, for all the prestige, it is just a consolation prize. He had to give up the rest of the world for this.
Until the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the hyperactive Gergiev was considered the busiest conductor in the world. He simultaneously conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg. He has also been guest conductor of several major orchestras. In Rotterdam he had his own Gergjev Festival, named after him.
John Thornhill Financial Times Conductor quotes: “Legendary institutions need strong and wise leadership.” Thornhill respectfully calls him a “maestro,” but also “one of the world’s most prominent faces.” soft power, The soft side of the Kremlin. His love for the Kremlin made him an outcast outside Russia.
Gergiev has been friends with Putin for a remarkably long time. The two had known each other since the early 1990s, and they made a strange combination: Gergiev was just beginning to gain somewhat fame, and no one had heard of Putin at the time. Both have left their mark on the world since then.
Friends always remained loyal to each other. In 2008, Gergiev gave a concert with the Mariinsky Orchestra in the ruins of the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, which Russia had just seized from Georgia. In 2014, he publicly supported the Ukrainian annexation of Crimea. In 2016, he held a concert in the ruins of the Syrian city of Palmyra, to celebrate the recapture of the city from ISIS thanks to Russian bombing.
These kinds of expressions of support were met with some fanfare, but the fanfare was always outweighed by the art world’s defense that Gergiev was not a politician, but an artist. Even when he refused to speak out against anti-gay legislation in Russia, the administration and the public did not abandon him. Gergiev continued to attract packed houses and standing ovations. In fact, he was busier than ever.
On the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he was simultaneously preparing for a four-day American tour of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, two performances of the Mariinsky at Carnegie Hall in New York, and an opera at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
The mayor of Milan called on him to speak out against the invasion of Ukraine. When Gergiev refused, he was fired. This started the snowball rolling: Vienna, Munich, Carnegie Hall, Rotterdam, and he was fired everywhere. The Gergjev Festival in Rotterdam ceased to exist.
The man who had accumulated “the capital of the few” suddenly found himself without a job. He immediately sold his properties in Italy, including the Barbarigo Palace on the Grand Canal in Venice and a villa with Roman ruins on the Amalfi Coast, according to the British Daily Mail. Corriere della Sera With a value of 150 million euros.
Gergiev then retreated to Russia, where Putin has now rewarded his loyalty by running the Bolshoi.
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