Believe it or not, a legendary Russian conductor has become president. Maestro Valery Gergiev did not even have to forsake music for politics to become the new Honorary President of the Edinburgh International Festival.
His celebrated predecessors in the “musical office” were violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and conductor Charles Mackerras, who died last year.
Making the announcement, the director of the festival, Jonathan Mills, sang Gergiev’s praises, saying “not only is he a superb talent, he is a truly international figure and a great humanitarian.”
Valery Gergiev brought the Festival “many outstanding performances with the Mariinsky Opera, London Symphony Orchestra and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and is hugely popular with Festival audiences,” he said.
“I can easily celebrate my 20 years with the Edinburgh International Festival, it is a wonderful place to visit. We artists come here with a tremendous sense of responsibility and excitement. I very much hope that the Festival continues to thrive and flourish and I am very privileged to be part of its future,” the Mariinsky company director replied.
Gergiev’s collaboration with the Edinburgh festival began back in 1991, when the Russian conductor performed Modest Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina at the Edinburgh Playhouse with the then Kirov Opera, later renamed the Mariinsky.
Four years later, Gergiev was back with Rimsky Korsakov’s Sadko and Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila. Then again, in 1997, when he brought Prokofiev to the Edinburgh festival. In 2008, the Mariinsky Opera performed Shchedrin’s The Enchanted Wanderer, Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko and Rachmaninov’s Aleko.
He has also appeared at the Festival in charge of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra.
This year, the Mariinsky Opera brought Strauss’s finest work, Die Frau ohne Schatten, to the international showcase event.