Gergiev was so late, someone else conducted from the wings

Gergiev was so late, someone else conducted from the wings


norman lebrecht

February 20, 2020

The Mariinsky chief gave so little time to rehearsing the St Petersburg production of Rodion Shchedrin’s opera Lolita that Sergei Neller, who conducted the world premiere in Prague, stood in the wings and gave cues to the singers at the correct tempo.

From a Slovak report:

The soloists were lost several times in rehearsal. Many told me that they were under stress when they saw that they would have no support from the conductor. Gergiev ignored them all, and if they couldn’t find (his beat), he just continued conducting.

Finally, a solution was adopted by which the conductor of the Prague performance Sergei Neller stood behind the scenes during the premiere and showed soloists instead of Gergiev.

As I sat with Shchedrin in one box, I could watch him all the time. Nervousness only dropped after the first act when it turned out that both the players and the conductor could finally make it at a level higher than looked possible half an hour before the curtain rose.

Read on here.




  • Karl says:

    I think I need a better translator. Google says “The preparations in St. Petersburg, however, were marked by the chronic lack of punishment of conductor Valery Gergiev, who studied the performance.”

  • Miss Wang with her dresses and Gergiev with his delays are the two big subjects of amusement of hahahaaha

  • Gustavo says:

    Was he late or slow?

    Was he absent or or absent minded?

  • John Borstlap says:

    The problem with Gergiev is that he has the ability to be at more than one concert at the same time. But such talent is sometimes stretching his presence beyond the limitations of the possible. So, also in this case, he probably was only partly there.

    • Yes sometimes we have the feeling that he’s afraid of missing someting so he has the need to do more concerts more opera more festivals etc… We know that he don’t have the same artisitic approach of Mravinski the old king of Saint-Petersburg. But it will be unfair to forget all the things he achieved during the last 20 years. Before Gergiev almost all the russians talents were used to leave the country.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed, he practically saved the Mariinsky.

        But in his later years he seemed to chase engagements not for artistic reasons. For financial reasons, maybe.

        • Of course there’s some financial reasons. Of course Gergiev don’t have the integrity in his works to work enough certains things like Haitink Chailly or Abbado in the past, some directors who make only the things they are sure to have sucess with. He made mistakes sometimes. I know that alot of people in London don’t regret him and that his story with the LSO didn’t finish well it was the same thing for Bayreuth. But, it can be fantastic to see Gergiev in concert. I have seen him two months ago with orchestre de Paris for the Firebird. I suppose he didn”t work a lot with the orchestra but it was fantastic.

          • Kolb Slaw says:

            I was impressed with Chailly, but he seemed to lack any ear for color. The only conductor I heard who did was Fruhbeck de Burgos.

      • Kolb Slaw says:

        And after, still leaving.

  • Annoyed says:

    Gergiev is a total disgrace. No respect for anyone besides his own ego (of course). Not for the music, not for the musicians, not for the audience… one day karma will strike for sure.

  • Jonatan Horvat says:

    Nothing new for Gergiev, he never rehearses. You don’t hear that in the Russian repetoire, but certainly always in the Bruckner and Strauss that he does. Wagner: Well, that is another or, even, more terrible story. You know the disastrous production of his Tannhäuser in Bayreuth. Only because he doesn’t rehearse. In other words, he doesn’t do his job.

  • Peter Schünemann says:

    Please, allow me a small correction : The world premiere of Shchedrin’s “Lolita” took place in 1994 at the Roval Swedish Opera, Stockholm. Sergey Neller conducted all performances at Prague’s Estates Theatre from October 2019 to January 2020.

    Gergiev was about 12 minutes slower than Neller, who not only prepared this premiere, but will conduct the next performances.

    • Paul Mauffray says:

      And perhaps you can also mention that Gergiev attended a performance of this production of “Lolita” in Prague already a few months ago last year, so he was at least somewhat familiar with the work then and had this on his mind (or was even learning it) for at least a few months.

      • Peter Schünemann says:

        Paul, what is the difference between “having a work in his mind” and “even learning it”? In 2008 Gergiev conducted the 2nd act of “Lolita” twice in concert form, once in Samara at Rostropovich’s Festival and once at home in Mariinsky Concert Hall. Like his musicians he is a great sight-reader and uses this ability very often, but I doubt, that in case of “Lolita” he had “learned” the score. I have attended the two first performances in Prague (condcuted by Sergey Neller) as well as the two premieres now at the Mariinsky, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Usually I am a Gergiev fan, but this time I was very disappointed. What a pity, that he did not give these two performances to Neller, who conducted all the rehearsals – except for the two final rehearsals, when Gergiev had to conduct in the evening “Parsifal” and “Pelléas et Mélisande”. Unfortunately that’s Mariinsky style – “ius primae noctis”.

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    Slipped Disc Caption Competition (to go with the Gergiev picture at the head of this article:
    “That guy trying to swat a fly in the wings isn’t giving up!”

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    And they want this guy in Amsterdam.

  • Symphony musician says:

    Gergiev is a narcissicist. However good a musician he can be when he makes the effort, he often toys with the musicians in front of him – solo singers/chorus/orchestra – to an extent that is entirely unreasonable, as long as it lines his own pocket and makes him look good.
    Please remember, a conductor makes no discernible musical sounds. What you hear in the performance is all due to the efforts of the musicians genuinely putting their necks on the line, night after night.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    Maestro Robert Luther should be assisting Gergiev.

  • John Stubbs says:

    I must reiterate, the man is a total fraud.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Appalling. It’s time for audiences to vote with their feet. Let the market do the work.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Greetings, Norman….
    This comment has nothing to do with the execrable Gergiev; it is just info that I thought you might like to read about.
    Here’s the link to a Rolling Stone article about the new “West Side Story” that you might be interested in reading:
    Use it as you see fit….
    Cheers and good wishes, Greg

  • Ben G. says:

    We have enough on our plate in tolerating our new world leaders who can do whatever they wish and get away with it. We’ve all been “Putin” up with this for a while. However, this same attitude should not invade the musical world.

    Symphonic musicians get punished and sanctioned if they arrive late or don’t even show up to perform; why do we let these conductors do whatever they want and get away with it? No matter how good they are, they should set the example for others.

    These maestro divas should follow the laws and the code of conduct in order to be respected in their profession, but unfortunately like politicians, they simply answer “Make me”.

  • Alexander says:

    Norman, see what I’ve found on Instagram recently 😉
    …. there is no Mr.Putin here, unfortunately, quel scandale 😉

  • As an aside (!) I always wonder who is conducting who? Gergiev the orchestra or they him so indecisive, vague are his directions. Wobbling fingers, tooth pick baton and an occasional tidying of unkempt hair seem to be his principal gestures. And yet the results (from Mariinsky) are outstanding. His rudeness and carelessness with regard to human behaviour are legendary but they won’t change now.

  • Dave says:

    Somebody should have explained that it wasn’t “Lolly? Ta!”

  • Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

    I am stage director Slava Daubnerova, my production of Rodion Shchedrin’s opera “Lolita” recently premiered on the stages of Prague National Opera and Mariinsky Theatre. On 20.02.2020 your internet portal published a partial translation of Mr. Peter Bleha ‘s article from his personal blog “Do Re Mix”
    I declare that the information you published is false and discredits the reputation of the entire artistic team and the production. The translated passage is taken out of context, has an offensive character and obviously seeks to defame.
    Mr. Bleha, who at my invitation attended at the premiere and general rehearsal of “Lolita”, apparently had a wrong understanding of this collaboration, and in pursuit of sensation, essentially wrote not a review of the production, but using the methods of the yellow press, slandered Maestro Gergiev.
    I would like to kindly request you not to use unverified data and remove the publication from the portal.
    As the director of the production, I am ready to share with you my impressions about the rehearsal process and collaboration with Mariinsky Theatre, if you are interested in truthful information in this respect.

    My best wishes,