In addition to being one of the world's leading conductors, Valery Gergiev, 56, is among Russia's most powerful and prominent cultural figures. As head of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater, the country's musical crown jewel, he has led the institution to a new international prominence and brought classical music back to the forefront of Russian society.
People often describe Gergiev as a force of nature. His intense, visceral style of conducting makes him one of the most dynamic performers at work today. As an artist, I can say that there are few other musicians who are more exciting collaborators.
Gergiev is Russia's de facto musical ambassador. In 2004 he gave a benefit concert for the victims of the Beslan school massacre in his native North Ossetia, and this year he performed at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. He has brought worldwide attention to often neglected works by Russian composers and introduced many now prominent Russian artists to Western audiences. I, for one, have him to thank for giving me my start. Bravo, Maestro!
Netrebko is a world-renowned opera singer