tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg July 9, 2015 6:00pm-7:01pm EDT
>> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: he's been the artistic and musical conduct your and he became the musical director. he conducted the london symphony orchestra. in 2000, he had a vision for a new opera house which, after several technical set backs, finally opened on his 60th earth day in 2013. the new marin skied -- mar
iinsky is one of the biggest opera houses in the world. it's the central hub of all things mariinsky. valery gergiev gave me a tour of. this is a new home and an old home because we are sitting in the new mariinsky theater. when you first came as a man in his 20's, what was the attraction and what was the history of the place. valery: so great to have you here, first of all. welcome to st. petersburg. welcome to one of the mariinsky theaters. long ago, i was a student in the leningrad conservatory of music.
tchaikovsky studied here and was one of the most famous and now overall the most famous musician. charlie: in the famous tchaikovsky competition. valery: ima chairman of that committee and i'm responsible of inviting the international jury organizing the orchestral performance and participation. it's a big register goal issue. it is expensive but very important since we started. it is now watched in 144 countries.
he was an honorary chairman, an honorary leader, a great american legend. that continues to live in this country. very few people like greg arion-- gregarion. they're here because they just open something charlie: a young man from fort worth, texas. valery: by the way, my great, great predecessor of the committee was shostakovich himself and his role was
instrumental in making them feel like they had to judge for the best. charlie: shostakovich, another legend of russian music. the concerto is within a block of here. valery: just a few steps away. charlie: you went to the conservatory and graduated. what was the next step? valery: i was prepared to conduct. charlie: you knew then you wanted to be a conductor. valery: i knew from age 17. i was helped by great teachers from my hometown very close to chechnya georgia politically troubled -- not so much, not anymore -- charlie: the conflict over georgia. valery: in 20 years ago when chechnya was at the height of a
very troubled area. back to the leningrad conservatory i was hoping that i would have a great teacher. he was a teacher of many great conductors. may meet -- he was may the most famous teacher in the world. sergei rachmaninov and another great russian composer entered. he maybe did not know that he's starting to teach -- they were boys, not even 17 kids -- both of them went on to become great pianists and great composers. he conducted the philadelphia
orchestra for example many times and his music is art of the world. american audiences maybe even 100 years ago 90 years ago, 80 years ago. to hear the music you performed so many times in america it was seen as the greatest living pianist and more and more accepted as a great living composer. russian american music history will be very lost. charlie: let's start with when you came to the mariinsky. you were in your 20's. what was your first job? valery: assistant conductor. but i was asked to assist and then conduct public performances of famous "war and peace".
the met audience knows that because we shared the production. at new york city and the met. if there is anything written on a grand scale for any opera, "war and pieace" will be there with the ring cycle by wagner and maybe sirergei prokofiev. the beginning was not by choice. i was simply told i was just going to assist others and then conduct my own performances. i'm very grateful the music director then.
why not to come and i just want to hear how it sounds. that was my first time i conducted the mariinsky orchestra and nobody know me. they said he is my assistant and he will do it. i thought it would conduct two minutes. i conducted the entire opera uninterrupted. strange, unusual, but it was the beginning. the orchestra, the chorus, many singers in the op run into were three of hours they knew if someone unknown was on the podium, young and experienced but i managed to go from this large opera and then it was the end of 1977 december. one of the very last days of
december 1977. my first performance was the second of january 1978. that was my public debut in the kirov theater. charlie: this is the 232nd season. it was named her? valery: maria alexandra, the empress of russia -- tsariana --wife of alexander the second czar of russia. the old theater was built in 1860. charlie: that is where your old office is. still very active. valery: full time they're still seven or eight performances are
even more. we also have 14 chamber music calls in this new theater which is in its own right, very beautiful welding. charlie: i want to get a sense of the history of the place. at 35 you become music direct her. valery: i was not even 35 when i was told in april 1988 that all of the artists of mariinsky then kirov, voted for me to become artistic director. charlie: i'm sorry, how old? valery: 34. gorbachev brought a lot of changes. this is a well-known fact. most unexpected came to the lives of artistic institution but also the economy.
yes it was stagnating, maybe in. -- mayeybe collapsing. talking to the orchestra, the company in leningrad, saying we made the decision this is a man or woman appointed by the leadership of the country. that was not anymore accepted. the real change gorbachev brought to this country was people started to feel they meant a lot, people started to feel they were professionals with their own opinion that should the expressed. they should insist that their opinion is heard. charlie: not just the dictator of the state. valery: you can speak about 100 500, maybe 1000 people who think
they make all the decisions but gorbachev brought this important change. i know him very well. we're friends. charlie: he lives in moscow. valery: he is maybe not so well for his age. i was conduct a big concert in london celebrating his 80th birthday. i was doing it with the london symphony orchestra. he brought historical changes not only to this country but to the world. ♪
charlie: you have transformed the mariinsky. i think you have given it a stature around the world. it's not just a conductor. it's more. it's representing an institution that you've built. valery: institution was hugely respected and born first as a company in 1783. by the way, always there was this great leadership that made the fate of this institution change. in one goal we decide we need a great theater. kutcher the great-- than large
and brought even more to this colossal city and this exceptionally beautiful city st. petersburg. can you imagine a short time of 70-75 years, the city became one of the most beautiful, one of the grandest in architecture, the most accomplished. it looked industrial. we artists, we musicians try to achieve this natural combination of many different elements. none is more difficult than a city's architecture when you have in a norma city. charlie: there was at some poing -- when you have and in
or miss city. charlie: there was at some point, the mariinsky -- i mean this is a huge commitment. valery: it is over 1000 performances per year. back then i was 34-35 years old. there was a huge opportunity. there was a huge generosity a trust from the company that included some 60 plus, 70 plus artists very famous. in our ballet company, the most important people some of them are 80 plus. it would be stupid to ask them to stop. the young people come in. they pass the secrets of the beauty of the stage. from our famous famous
mariinsky ballet company, these are the people who know how to teach, who know how to effect and make the young girls at 16 or 17 to take it and never lose it for the rest of their lives. it's very important to have them always with us. the people who voted for me included them so it was a huge list. suddenly -- surprisingly -- i was supported by a good $.85 of the company. -- 85% of the company. why? maybe some but he remembered how i directed "war and peace." maybe someone remembered i was insistent. maybe someone read i was strong of will or character. there were difficult times in
1988. gorbachev was still admired by many. the sense of not may be losing the country but losing the confidence. there was the problem with mikael gorbachev was the economy has to be stable then you can bring other forms based on the economy that gives people confidence. salaries, families to support, then you can say we need more open, more rapid changes. the tragedy of gorbachev was that this was not on the level in the openness and change was benefiting the wrong people. it could have benefited every family because the economy was networking but tragic. in china with the same situation, they made a wise decision to start with the economy. to start quietly inviting western technologies. charlie: you made a commitment
to build here and then you had an architect to build the foundation. and then you decided you side building you like so much in toronto. more to the story than that? valery: i was never thinking of building an opera house or concert hall. we have oath now. what i was thinking is the only one advantage i have over everybody is i love music. they do, too, but as a leader i have to prove i can work hard and they can also believe we can work, rehearse, prepare. then we will expand. then we will have quality, international recognition which followed very quickly. in 1988i started. in 1989 -- of course the ballet company was famous in any case. we were seen in london paris.
maybe two years later we were seen at the met. in 1992, my first arrival in new york, that was my first time in america 1990. now 25 years since i came to america the first time. there was not one single year or four or five months that we would not go there either, opera, ballet or orchestra. it was very important for us to build relationships. san francisco chicago, on and on. charlie: what would you compare this to internationally? valery: difficult to compare. may be easier to compare with again, soviet times.
twice after so-called iron curtain was lifted in late 1950's and the west discovered the art of the bolshoi ballet the kirov ballet. to say it was a sensation would be an underestimation. it was a shock. it's been proven many times. charlie: what was the shock? valery: the first arrival of the bolshoi and kirov ballet. there were performances in finland and japan, but i think the big shot came london, new york, paris. lake baryshnikov, natasha -- li ke baryshnikov, those who live or continue to live in the west
who decided to leave russia or soviet union to continue their careers in the west but there were many who did not who were flourishing here who were legendary dancers, ballerinas male dancers, choreographers, so long. i think it is easy to compare the years when the collapse of soviet union in 1991 somehow coincided with the rise of mariinsky. we restored the name of mariinsky from the middle of the 19th century. by the way, amazingly, -- charlie: you had a commitment here for how many years? valery: we started to think about it in 2003 and was opened in 2014. the model was chosen by a french architect proved to be near to
impossible to build. many wise people told me that it was impossible to build. charlie: that was after the foundation had been built? valery: they have started to build the foundation but it was not finished. charlie: the architect then said -- valery: people from construction business and big companies, they are not here for tchaikovsky. maybe some of them understand the beautiful melody the beautiful dance, the beautiful solo. one of them told me -- he was russian -- i warn you this will be risky. this architecture is difficult to build. believe me, but be careful. then we started to ask other companies to help us. when a german company came, do you think you can build this project? we are already in the beginning of this huge process.
we started to spend money. germans are very thorough. when they told us it was a big contract, we don't think we can do it. why? it's risky. the structure, because of its shape, very expensive. it would be very expensive to look after it. rainy days, snowy, it would be a nightmare. then i was becoming very tense. at some point i was in toronto and i was seeing a conduct during -- i was seeing eight conductor. it was maybe 2006? maybe 2007? i was asked to come and see a theater that was being built not even opened. i came. i looked.
i thought it was very good for the public to have the light, the wonderful stairs. you could just walk to the seats of the concert hall. the p&l was there. the foyer was full of light -- the piano was there. rehearsal rooms were not huge but comfortable. storage rooms, not huge but comfortable. when i heard the price of something in the area of 100 million, i was surprised. initially, we were already spending more. they built the beautiful upper house in toronto more than what we were spending in the first place. for me, that was something terribly important. i felt i had to make a decision very soon. i was looking for the architect working there. ii had good friends in toronto they arranged for me to meet
them. i came back and the opera house was already built. i knew very well the music. -- i knew very well the music director. i asked him to come to st. petersburg for something very important. he came and he saw the city and i think you fell in love with the architecture. he saw the area, the site where we were getting started looking at the big space below. then we started to talk practically. we will ask you to build opera house but your experience building upper house is precious. i know you will not be learning. you will give us the maximum of your additional experience in toronto. use it to its best possible effect and build even bigger, may be even larger, and maybe
even more perfect. charlie: that opened on your 60th birthday. put came. -- putin came. tell me with this place represents. it's amazing to me. not only are you music director, not only are you conduct in but you are a bill there. you are a guy who with your own energy trying to transform words we used earlier, an institution. there are only 24 hours in a day. you travel with your orchestra. and now you've got this place. where are you? what are you proud about? where do you want to go from here? valery: look, i have two legendary american school of music's come to mind. i met them. leonard bernstein with russian
roots, by the way, or isaac stern, another great american who spoke russian. we spoke a lot about the grandparents and so on. lenny did travel with his orchestra. charlie: the new york philharmonic. valery: he traveled to other orchestras as well. isaac stern was there to defend the very existence, the very life of carnegie hall. i know he was there as well to give his tremendous support but there were many others, i'm sure. charlie: they were all there.
valery: there would be no carnegie hall without them. there was a moment in the history of carnegie hall when there was someone who could make a decision that carnegie hall should go down in there would eat something built, hotel, shops, whatever. one of the symbol of the american musical world. yes, you need leaders. i don't know if i was born as what you say, world leader, but i was born in the right place, the right time. look, there were great conduct or zero. he had a great orchestra in leningrad. i understand the sound of an orchestra. there were very few like the philharmonic ever. yes, there was a fantastic orchestra in berlin changing.
lenny was there to help the new york philharmonic but also the ballet to help a large space that needed it. carnegie hall needed leaders to save it. in my own small way, maybe, this city and country needed a leader who would make sure that ballet, opera, orchestra would not disappear like soviet union. there's a problem outside of
politics. valery: that was the idea. if you asked me today what is so political about current times, i would say the relationship twinkle little -- politicians are very political. the relationships have zero political effect. the relationship between politicians and mesha and the people in russia are changing and are totally wrong from the american point of view. the assumptions applied make an opposite effect. putin became more popular with more support than before. and our scenario, we think russia makes difficult decisions. russian leadership but you cannot even start to compare life here before 2000 and after. you cannot even start. you have to be very honest and
say this, this. this we could do better. which president of which country says everything works. whatever was there, we just need to do it better. this fairytale does not exist. there are mistakes made by many presidents and prime ministers. even many collectively. i think europe is a beautiful continent, but there are many mistakes made. we see and china, i'm sure china has its own questions, but -- look. i'm not a political observer. politics and music come together when, if, the country is facing a war and someone like shostakovich writes a symphony and the symphony, most probably
reflects this huge tragedy and drama of the world. a lot of people spent time saying is a good composer but he writes about hitler, about stalin. do not look at shostakovich in relation to stalin or hit her. he's a musician, a composer. he's not a politician. i played the cycle of shostakovich symphonies entirely. 15 symphonies is maybe more than 11 or 12 hours. a ticket to london, new york, paris, tokyo. charlie: played with your orchestra. valery: not only with mariinsky but rotterdam, london, paris. charlie: the point? valery: it's not a politician who composes music. it's the music of my country. i have to say clearly what i think about prokofiev
shostakovich, tchaikovsky. don't choose one, 2, 3. they all contributed unbelievably to the world of music. since i come from st. petersburg , i never have more responsibility to play, to perform, to understand, to think about, to bring some kind of true message more or less authentic. i feel a pressure on me. if i do not do well with the music a german who wrote beautiful music, i do not think i need to impersonate it is no one expects me to be the leading expert. charlie: but if it's prokofiev shostakovich, tchaikovsky? valery: then you are under fire.
rachmaninoff, a list of 15 or 20 names. a great living composer who will be performing here. i accept the responsibility. i am ready to face any criticisms taking this in this composition. i know i will help and defend his music. if people say, wait a second it isn't shostakovich but it's 1905 post-revolution. many people were killed. it was unfortunate. many bad things started after 1905 and it was in saint petersburg not only in russia but st. petersburg. shostakovich decided some 50 years later to compose a symphony called 1905, the resolution. some people immediately --
shostakovich is a politician. why? the problem is the people who are deaf and they're trying to find external reason outside. it's called 1905 -- bad. it's about revolution russia. that means the political thing. no. charlie: here you are. here i am in st. petersburg and you want to make sure that you take the music of the great russian composers and gives it all that it deserves. valery: that's right. definitely. the young group of artists dancers, singers. when you say young dancers it's like an insult as they are 17, 16 years old.
children not anymore. young professionals not yet. that early we take them and we set up to give them this kind of injection. normally most of them want to keep this relationship a long time or forever. charlie: your commitment is not only to do honor to russian artist and composers but to develop the next-generation or encourage the next generation of russian artists. valery: today at the met, people come and hear. i give you one of his many firsts. it was 86 or 87 may be. he was a boy. really, very young.
where is he in siberia? where do we find him? one month he was here singing. he was then really very young but you could tell immediately. we perform here and there london, new york, moscow, st. petersburg. there are quite many. charlie: do you consider vladimir putin a friend? valery: he's a man i respect whom i know well. i never call him a friend. look, he is many things to worry about it inc. about. i'm responsible for just one important thing. in russia there are hundreds of very important symbols that are a symbol of pride normalcy, a symbol of what is "good," or
healthy. charlie: do you think he respects the role of art in our lives? valery: to a degree where you can compare him to a smart leader of the country informed. the uninformed, ignorant are dangerous. if i'm uninformed about what is good or bad for my health i would vanish. it you die earlier you lose energy, you cannot operate. your half a professional because you do not have the health you need for also professional activity. this is what i find very interesting about mr. put in. he came as the prime minister and i'm telling you this country was looking 50-50. survive? most probably. collapse? to lose russia, that would be something. first of all soviet union than russia.
in 1989 it looked like maybe the south would go. they wanted independence. and maybe siberia they wanted independence because they had gold and aluminum. we could become a state and we are healthy. our economy would be bigger than our neighbors. list the site now -- let's decide now. whether you like it or not, not you or those suspected. someone comes and said this integration is not good. there will be a way. look what happened in georgia. there was a war. it's not good for people. thousands, many thousands, got killed. war is not good. you will last me this question in any sense.
crimea, six or 7000 dead. that is what we know about crimea. i don't talk about natural death. but as a result of this very very provocative territory. was it annexation? i heard westerners, very modern very well-known westerners, i heard from paris and very official gatherings where one frenchman said "well you can look at it as the annexation of crimea but you can also look before the annexation of crimea there was a coup and they got rid of the elected president." i was not fond of yet a code which.
i was never his friend. never. -- i was not fond of yanukovych. you could feel what he wanted to do. sometimes with american presidents there are those who enjoy it so much. there are some who don't feel art is so important. there is a difference one to another. there is a minister of culture. like mitterrand in france. maybe he wanted even a monument to his presidency. everlasting, you know. some people like you architecture.
there is a monument and there are many performances. hundreds of thousands, now millions, came and enjoyed music there. maybe he was right. maybe this theater which is one of the symbol of the years where mr. putin was president or prime minister is a result of changes under his resolve where he leaves the -- leads the country. inclusive thinking that this is good, important. we're a country of tchaikovsky rachmaninoff. charlie: what do you think you trying to do? are you confident in his goals? valery: i don't think he wants to stick in this position forever, forever. charlie: president? valery: i don't think so. second, i don't inc. he wants to put those russian-speaking
people, just simply abandon them. -- i don't think he wants to abandon them. charlie: separatists? valery: they never separated. they always lived there. you come and kill me but i'm not leaving. this is my house. some people say we will help you escape because there is danger. i'm not leaving even if i'm dying because this is the grave of my mother. we have to respect this kind of thinking otherwise we think they are good people and bad people. all of them are bad here. it is never black-and-white and you know it as well because you cover the whole world. how complicated is iraq? how couple gated is syria? who is better aside or isis? -- assad or isis? charlie: the choice ought to be
whatever the people of syria really want. i said to him he should play a role and he said it's up to the syrian. you have to make sure you understand what the choices are. the choices should not necessarily be between assad and isis. that is a choice he may want them to make because he wants to see that. there's a real risk, a real danger there. valery: let me tell you something. president assad is probably not a leader but president putin knows probably better the other danger is not edgar. charlie: i think most people do think that. the scariest thing would be for isis to march into damascus. valery: maybe two years ago that is exactly what the g-20 was supposed to discuss. charlie: and they had met success and not to feed in terms of their own expansion. in terms of syria and iraq. valery: two years ago, u.s. and
russia, together with others could do much more. that's the failure. that was a mistake. nobody is killed, but i still feel the mistake of the president of the u.s. or russia leads to thousands of deaths and millions of people starving or suffering or displaced seeking refuge, you have to think may become with it pre-decided. we are big. you're not. we do this because i'm bigger. first of all, nobody knows who is bigger. that is my artistic feeling of perception in this world. you know, the small snake can kill an elephant. we know it. in the big elephant would be dead. we have this national geographic
where a lien is killed by mosquitoes. it is much better to build a world that works together. in many ways, i am american. i have maybe more friends in america than many big russians. i have many friends in moscow and st. petersburg. we are professionals here so here everyone is my friend colleague, professional. let's not talk about mariinsky family. i have many friends in america and i talk to them all the time. how many of them told me clinton was good putin bad. then george w. bush. many say he was an impossible man. i do not provoke this. i just listen over dinner, after the concerts. america was full of this discussion. terrible, good, ok.
please tell me something wrong about your president. they started. we end this country are also divided. what current actions and current, lest say, sanctioning russia made this country much more united much more than it was before. this president, even more popular and this is not fake. my advice -- think twice maybe three times. if you want to be successful and help countries north of africa. libya, i don't understand. what is libya now? you want to do it without russia. you tried already. think twice -- better three times. i am only musician.
it was not staying away from the issues. i think even america might need very careful thinking. charlie: last question. being a man of music, when you cross whatever you are going what is the music you want to hear? valery: maybe a big, complex problem in me. i will never, never -- how long i live, i don't know -- i will never stay just glued to russian music. yesterday we played the music of debussy. your heart is famously beating, beating. but between these beats, there is something that makes you full of emotion that some composers
make me feel. i'm very touched. charlie: but there is not one that speaks beyond all -- valery: no. i made the decision a long time ago. it's terribly important for me to bring american music and american artist hero. equally important to bring russian artist in russian music there. it's very multicolored. i love japan but i also love china. very different. to answer your question, i think we all have to love the world which was created by god and it's meant to be multicolored. it's meant to be multi-ideological. it cannot be one given decided, this is the way you will think. or the answer will always be -- no. it was there may be one million years ago. we think, catherine the great would think, they are both poets
, architect, philosophers and they are very generous to us. they give us an unbelievable gift which we enjoy every day. this is what we all should do. finally, i want to say that russian empress tsarina was it german and brought in another architect and we have fantastic museums and buildings now. it was built in a few decades and it became one of the best places for art anywhere in the world. it is always very international. an architect comes and says i will do it, but we work together. leadership brings. in investing and art is always better than investing in war -- always. charlie: i'm honored to sit here