RENOWNED Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has travelled to the ruins of Palmyra in Syria to conduct a concert in the surviving ancient Roman Theatre.
This marks the return of peace to the city, which has been ravaged and reduced to rubble by Daesh’s troops and subsequent military interventions from the Syrian forces, which reclaimed the territory in March, backed by Russian air strikes.
Gergiev is renowned both in Russia and internationally; he works as the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, but is performing in Syria together with the Symphony Orchestra of St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, where he is the artistic director.
The gesture, which may be interpreted by some as political, although perhaps also intended to show the transcendental and enduring power of music to unite nations and to overcome tragedy, is a poignant reminded of a similar concert that took place in August 2008.
Then, Gergiev also performed a concert amidst the war-torn ruins of Tskhinvali after the end of the Russo-Georgian war in South Ossetia. The concert, which took place at dusk near the ruined building of the South Ossetian Parliament, was a powerful act that conveyed through music the strength, endurance and hope of a nation taking a stand against aggressors. It also served to commemorate the war’s victims.
Gergiev is Ossetian himself, and the image of him conducting and orchestra on the territory of his divided homeland is prominent in the memory of many Russians for whom this conflict drastically and painfully changed relations with Georgia, a country previously so familiar that it was kin.
Again, Gergiev, an outspoken supporter of Russian president Putin’s administration, demonstrates that political statements, as many will undoubtedly interpret his presence in Palmyra as such, can be conducted peacefully and through a universal medium: music, empathy and grace.