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Valery Gergiev's hubris [Jul. 30th, 2009|01:07 pm]
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Having just watched - with mounting disbelief - the first production of Valery Gergiev’s Mariinsky ‘Ring’, I am digesting the implications. One is that if his ‘Rheingold’ is an amateurish clunker, the portents are dire for the other productions in his cycle. Since my ‘Rheingold’ review is already on The Independent website, I won’t repeat my unkind judgments here, but a second immediate thought is that many critics failed to appreciate the brilliance of Keith Warner’s Royal Opera House ‘Ring’, when it was unveiled in 2007.

In Bryn Terfel and John Tomlinson we had the best alternating pair of Wotans in the world, but they - plus many other pieces of inspired casting - were only part of the reason for that cycle’s dazzling success. Its greatest strength lay in the way Warner and his team - designer Stefanos Lazaridis, lighting designer Wolfgang Gobbel, and video specialists Mic Pool and Dick Straker, with Antonio Pappano in the pit - imposed their vision, in all its beauty, strangeness, and mystery. I hope the ROH revive it soon, to erase current memories.

But back to Valery Gergiev, who may be riding for a fall. Today’s Guardian carries a forelock-tugging leader "in praise of" him, but even this sounds a note of caution. His workload is extraordinary, says the writer: might this Ring be a self-imposed challenge too far? But never mind, he concludes: ‘his hyperactivity is overwhelmingly his strength’, and it’s not our business to ask him to be different.

But we do have the right to ask whether hubris is taking its toll. Gergiev’s intemperate political interventions over the Russo-Georgian war last year were shamefully tribal-verging-on-racist; his assumption that he can now function like a Diaghilev, acting as producer as well as music director, reinforces the impression that he never questions his own abilities, or his own behaviour. (We will pass over his close personal links with Vladimir Putin.) All this spells danger. Is an alarm-bell now ringing?

(Photo: Getty)

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