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14.12.05

Mariinsky Young Singers in Paris

Following on the special appearance by St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater at the Opéra de Paris in Shostakovich's The Nose last month -- and Valery Gergiev's conducting of Otello back in March) -- the troupe is in residence right now at the Théâtre du Châtelet. They are giving several performances of Mussorgsky's Boris Gudonov, Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims, and a double-bill of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible. There is also a series of recitals by the Young Singers of the Mariinsky, part of the legion of performers that came with Gergiev to Paris for The Nose. Marie-Aude Roux's review (Les "enfants" du Mariinski, December 11) for Le Monde has some information (my translation):

They include names like Anna Netrebko, the stunning Traviata in last year's Salzburg Festival, Olga Guryakova, Yekaterina Semenchuk, Daniil Shtoda: they are young, beautiful, and sing on the best opera stages. All have passed through the Academy of Young Singers [in Russian, Академия молодых певцов] founded in 1998 by Valery Gergiev, ten years after he took control of the venerable Russian institution that had fallen into disrepair, to which he returned its former luster and international aura.

But "the man with ten orchestras" is not alone. He is assisted by a woman of character, his sister, the pianist Larissa Gergieva. For seven years, with an iron hand and a velvet voice, with hair pulled back severely and turquoise glasses, La Gergieva has reigned with absolute authority over the Academy's young singers, whom she recruits herself. The results are incontestable. "We accept about 20 singers from the 400 who audition each year," says Larissa Gergieva. "Some come from around the world -- Japan, the United States, Norway, New Zealand. But there are, to be sure, lots of Russians. What is important for a theater like ours is to conserve our traditions while developing our own methods."
The Akademia gives the singers all sorts of training besides singing lessons, including acting, dance, fencing, foreign languages, regional accent correction, and diet and health, over which Gergieva admits she rules as a "mother hen," even distributing money or clothing if the singers fall into financial difficulty. Even for the "most luxurious voices," Gergieva told Roux, they consider physical appearance to be very important, sometimes even calling upon plastic surgeons and dieticians. Here's a picture of a recent performance back in St. Petersburg. See also this interview (From Russia With Talent: An Interview with Russian tenor Daniil Shtoda and pianist Larissa Gergieva, May 2003) by Nuno Miguel Marques for Classical Voice.

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