‘Everyone knows Gergiev is late’

‘Everyone knows Gergiev is late’


norman lebrecht

January 24, 2020

The repercussions of Valery Gergiev’s no-show at the Vienna Opera’s Lohengrin are still rolling around world media a week later.

Radio Liberty has found a Russian music critic, Alexei Parin, who defends Gergiev’s lateness as a personal habit ‘for 20 years’ and tells orchestras and opera houses to get used to it.

Aside from the discourtesy to colleagues, audiences and the institutitions where he turns up late, there is a disquieting parallel to Gergiev’s conduct in that of his president, Vladimir Putin.

At meetings with world leaders, Putin is always late. It’s a way of manifesting power and making other people uncomfortable.

That’s what Gergiev does, as poodle to master.

Dominique Meyer was right to give the Vienna audience full account of Gergiev’s bad behaviour. He should not be allowed to get away with it andy more – and I doubt he’ll be invited to La Scala when Meyer is in charge.



  • Gergiev gives so many concerts a year that when you have a ticket to see him you must know that he could be late. And in a certain way you must know that he’s a genius for Prokoefiev Stravinsky and Moussorgski and less good for Mozart and Mahler. But don’t I forget that when you see Gergiev with Marinskii (a marvelous orchestra) you will have a long concert and you will have extras at the end. A thing that I haven’t seen for exemple with the LSO twice and the Berliner twice, outside of their house for not long performances.

    • Jean says:

      I’ve attended multiple concerts conducted by Gergiev. He always showed up on time. And it’s true : his programmes are generous in terms of length.

      • When an orchestra is outside of his country it’s very important for the people inside the concert hall. I have seen Rattle several times he’s not very generous for that… Jansons Chailly and Pappano gives extras to the foreign people for exemple.

      • PaulD says:

        At the Kennedy Center with the Marinskii a few years back, he conducted the full Petroushka, Firebird and Rite of Spring. That was a lot of music.

        • I remember a Marinskii program with 3 concertos of Prokofiev with 3 differrents pianists who gave extras, one long suit of Romeo by Prokofiev and at the end Gergiev and his orchestra who insisted to give a little extras. It was a long night but what a wonderful concert it was! Two time longer than the concert of the Berliner I have seen last year.

    • batonbaton says:

      Only a man could think that length (of anything) is a good quality. Having said that, it’s his audiences that need stamina and endurance.

    • PHF says:

      So… you don’t care to wait if the programme is long and have some extras in the end?

      • If it’s Marinskii with a russian programe YES!

      • Paul Dawson says:

        One extra I could have done without followed James Galway’s splendid performance of the Nielsen flute concerto. Instead of letting the audience digest this wonderful work during the interval, he bounded back on stage and played an Irish jig.

  • Luca says:

    Personally I get tired of attacks on Gergiev. In Russian music, at the very least, he is an inspired conductor. I also get tired of seeing him called a “Putin poodle”. Would we expect Simon Rattle to tell Johnson he wants nothing to do with him or the Arts Council grant?

    • Tristan says:

      totally agree with you! He is fabulous in Russian repertoire and if he failed in Bayreuth and Salzburg last year its the fault of weak managers…..just get a decent conductor for Wagner (though he did some good) and Verdi! The casting nowadays is mostly a disaster also when it comes to singers

    • Gustavo says:

      Poor old Paavo is just called Putin, without poodle.

  • Peter van Laarhoven says:

    Russians have a completely different concept of time and “on time” than Westerners. But that is something beyond understanding for most western, prejudiced and culturally insensitive people on this site. “Rolling around world media” – you must be joking!

    • MWnyc says:

      Well, if a Russian artist is being paid by a Western institution to perform for a Western audience, he or she should expect to adhere to Western standards of “on time.” And, in fact, Russian artists do exactly that every day.

    • C Porumbescu says:

      And yet funnily enough, many great Russian artists manage to be punctual, reliable and courteous.

      Lateness is bad manners in most European cultures. Gergiev’s behaviour isn’t that of a man of superior sophistication; it’s arrogant, entitled showboating.

    • Larry D says:

      So it’s OUR problem and prejudice and insensitivity that we don’t understand THEM, but not their problem that they don’t bother to understand our bizarre concept of being on time and adjust accordingly out of common politeness. Bad, bad Westerners!

    • Tamino says:

      Nice try.
      Gergiev is not late, when he has a meeting with Putin. Or is he?
      Enough said.

      Also: how does Gergiev react, if a singer misses an entrance by about 15 minutes, with everybody else waiting? Is he ‘culturally sensitive’ toward the singer then?

    • AB says:

      Yes I’d say culturally insensitive fits the bill for VG when he performs in other countries

    • GB says:

      Ah yes, the concept of ‘turning up on time’ and ‘being late’, such an alien concept to western civilisation. If I say get to a rehearsal for 12, you and the rest of russia wont get here till past 12? That is not culture and you do Russians a disservice by saying it’s part of their’s.
      Pure laziness and disorganization on the part of the individual. Late is late, on time is on time. Always and everywhere.

    • V.Lind says:

      ‘Scuse us for being courteous, having manners, being considerate, whatever you want to call it. Lateness is, when habitual, at the very least passive aggressive. It is vain: my time is more important than your time. It IS a power play. It is also pig ignorant.

      It is also bush league.

    • Bogda says:

      Just a reminder Russian/USSR conductors also include likes of Petrenko(s), Jurowski(s), Bychkov, Jansons, Nelsons, Currentzis, Temirkanov etc. How many of them are known for having a different “concept of being on time” ?

  • Larry W says:

    And when he dies, he will yet again be the late, great Valery Gergiev.

  • Gustavo says:

    I think this is being politically overinterpreted.

    Valery’s physical power may be dwindling.

    He needs a sabbatical.

    • Brian Viner says:

      He works very hard also getting older he should slow down.
      People should go to rock concerts the artist can come on at midnight
      That has happened to me .

  • MacroV says:

    I am open to being corrected, but I am pretty sure that when he guest conducts orchestras in North America, after that experience at the MET, he’s not late. Orchestra time is expensive; they can’t afford for him to be 15 minutes late to a rehearsal, never mind a concert.

  • WillymH says:

    I honestly think the “world media” has other things on its mind right now!

  • AB says:

    It’s so inconsiderate but then when you’re the Tsar, well…

    • Tamino says:

      Nobody in classical music is a Tsar. Certainly not a conductor. It’s just psychotic to assume that would be the case. But then the world has also seen worse effects of neurotic minds. At least nobody dies from the cookooness of that man.

  • Ines says:

    The most important question is; is he late when he plays in front of Putin? Well, the answer is obvious and therefore it s clear why he is late when we attend his concerts

  • Dr Tara Wilson says:

    It is partly a cultural issue: Russians don’t take time-keeping as seriously as we do in the West. And yes, with the quality that Gergiev produces and the longer programmes – most Russian audiences are more than happy to wait. It is the musical experience that counts – Gergiev builds up to a finale – the start time is irrelevant.

  • Bruce says:

    Whatever. As long as the math works out (as with Domingo), houses will keep hiring him.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Did they sound the Lohengrin trumpets at his arrival?

  • Edgar says:

    On March 2 Valery is scheduled to conduct the opening night of a new production of Wagner’s Holländer at the MET.

    “Die Frist ist um….”

  • Luca says:

    People are forgetting that “that man K” was always late for rehearsals and deliberately made his audiences wait a little. He also often gave short measure and no encores.