Three stars vanish from Verbier

Three stars vanish from Verbier


norman lebrecht

July 22, 2019

The festival announced months ago that it would be putting on concert performances of Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten with – fanfare – Nina Stemme, Matthias Goerne and Brandon Jovanovich.

None of the three is actually taking part.

The Verbier website names – no fanfare – Milna-Liisa Värelä, Gerhard Siegel and John Lundgren in their roles.

No explanation, no apology. The Verbier Festival, a Putinist outpost under Valery Gergiev’s regime, is the last place to look for transparency.

Nina Stemme (above) did not list the proposed event on her website calendar.


  • Novagerio says:

    “a Putinist outpost under Valery Gergiev’s regime”…
    do you also call “el sistema” a “chavist outpost under the Dude”?…

  • Michel says:

    Verbier : “a putinist outpost under Valery Gergiev’s regime” !! I prefer to laugh at these ridiculous comments you make about this immense and respected conductor. I have pity for you.

  • Mike says:

    Just finished watching the performance. Could have been a better listening experience if Verbier did more to sort the balance between orchestra a singers. The orchestra was too loud and the singers could have been more prominant on a mini stage by placing the orchestra on the ground. It didn’t really work the way the singers were integrated within the orchestra. I do love Verbier though for it’s chaotic stage management, lax crowd control, timing etc. Reminds me of Glastonbury’s organisation in a strange way but when they are putting on something rare like this they need to up their game a bit. I’m not surprised therefore that the famous line up turned it down. I also thought that Valery who always feels uncomfortable with an audience forgot to acknowledge the minor roles which forced them to push themselves on to the front of the stage.

    • Edgar says:

      “I also thought that Valery who always feels uncomfortable with an audience forgot to acknowledge the minor roles which forced them to push themselves on to the front of the stage…”

      Prokofviev’s War and Peace would be the next mandatory gig at Verbier, under this point of view…

  • Helena says:

    Fanfares or not, to me the correct spelling of names is important – obviously more important than it is to Mr. Lebrecht , because three of the singers mentioned here have their names misspelt. Matthias Goerne, Brandon Jovanovich and Miina-Liisa Värelä.

  • Rodrigo says:

    I must admit that I can see the truth in what Norman says. I had no idea until last week Gergiev’s influence there.

    Here’s what I noticed: the 8th place finalist in one of the wind catagories of the Tchaikovsky Competition unexpectedly appeared on the Verbier musicians’ roster recently. The concession of wind positions at Verbier is followed carefully by others of the same instrument. It’s a big opportunity. There were 7 other Tchaik finalists who placed ahead of this particular person who deserved that opportunity. I was mystified as to how this person was suddenly whisked away from Deep Russia to Verbier. Then I realized Gergiev was the connection.

    I also remembered the puzzling selection of instrumentalists for the Tchaikovsky Competition Gala, conducted by Gergiev. It looks like he basically chose who he wanted with no regard for how they’d placed at the Competition. He included this same 8th place candidate at that Gala, skipping over wind finalists 3-7 to do so. Then the same person turns up in one of the coveted wind positions at Verbier.

    It gets worse. The repertoire for this instrument at Tchaik was controversial. There was one truly heinous piece, an impossibly difficult new transcription and one very gratifying standard work which was much easier. In a peculiar turn of programming, Gergiev’s 2 apparent favorites on this instrument (one was the privileged #8) BOTH performed the good piece and the non-Russian who’d placed highest was stuck having to do the heinous piece.

    Yes, I can see Gergiev’s influence and the lengths he goes thru to promote his own people, including at Verbier.