Dressed in a dark suit and tie, with more than a 5 o'clock shadow, an energetic Valery Gergiev entered the foyer of the Mariinsky's first balcony area for today's press conference. He discussed the plans for this year's White Nights' Festival and then took questions. The obvious hot topic of the moment -- the directorship of the ballet section of the Mariinsky Theatre -- did arise and Gergiev answered at length.
He mentioned the New York tour, and that he'd met with and had general discussions about the world of ballet, and Russian ballet in particular, with both Kolpakova and Baryshnikov while there. Someone asked if Misha B. was a likely candidate for director, and Gergiev answered by saying he was a stellar graduate of the school and from this theatre, then naming Soloviev in the same breath. He mentioned the other great current stars of the Ballet, and said, "But the question isn't is Makhar Vasiev satisfied or not, the question is who is going to be artistic director. Who." He added , "I have kept quiet on this topic recently not because I am afraid of it, because I consider this ballet troupe to be very strong and the corps de ballet is the best in the world..."
He went on to list great graduates such as Komleva and others in the MT such as Vikulev with whom he is in constant contact generally speaking, and then he stated when Ratmansky announced his decision to leave the BOlshoi, he(Gergiev) was surprised and wondered why. "He is intelligent and talented, so why did he decide to leave? Probably because creative work [ie choreography] interests him more." He added that in a recent meeting with Ratmansky, who will create the ballet "The Fairy's Kiss" for the White Nights, Alexei reminded him that Gergiev was the one who first invited him to this theatre and he was grateful for that.
He made the comment also that the current stars of the ballet - Lopatkina, Vishneva, Zelensky, among them - are only stars when they do their best and give their best. When he learned that Vishneva only performs at the Mariinsky Theatre one time per year, that concerned him and he had a "long and difficult" conversation with her about it. "She could be the best, she could be my favorite ballerina and a world star, but if she is only dancing here once per year, she is not a super prima of the Mariinsky Ballet." Because she would need to dance her more often to be termed that.
Moving back to the topic of director, he generalized that the MT needs good productions such as the "Povorot Binta" it has at present, and also "great artists, artists with a capital A." He commented that the ballet's successes and the progress of current young stars -- he named Sarafanov and Tereshkina as two he counts on as the future generation -- can be attributed to Makhar's efforts. "He is a good manager. As manager of the ballet, he does a good job. As artistic director, I"m not so sure. That isn't a critique it is just a comment."
He made many comments about the theatre's traditions as well, that Russia can be proud of its artistic achievements and that the MT itself is /was home to so many great names.
Unlike the press comments in newspaper articles recently, I found Gergiev highly composed during this press QA session, very direct in his answers, very clear. He had intelligent replies, heavy on content (during this high season of political bashing in the USA among presidential candidate hopefuls). To one final question about the status of the new theatre he replied that he is not a specialist on building construction and only a specialist should be asked, but that the building must be completed by the end of 2010, and if it isn't there will be a serious problem.
He spoke for over an hour nonstop and these were the ballet-related highlights.