Scion of the great Russian conducting tradition, Mikhail Agrest has honed his craft at the Mariinsky Theatre for over a decade, acquiring a considerable body of operatic and symphonic repertoire and gaining crucial insights into orchestra development and artistic leadership. Simultaneously, he forged meaningful artistic relationships with a number of the world’s premiere ensembles.
In the 2017-18 season, Mikhail Agrest returns to the London Philharmonic Orchestra with a Russian Epics program featuring music of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Khachaturian, and continues his long-standing collaborations with the Semperoper Dresden, Opernhaus Zurich and Teatro San Carlo di Napoli. He looks forward to his debuts with the Seoul Philharmonic and Bruckner Orchestra Linz, where he will conduct Scriabin’s Symphony No. 3 “The Divine Poem”, among other repertoire. Mr. Agrest has also been invited to conduct the Scottish Opera in a new production of The Fiery Angel and a symphonic program.
During the previous season, Mikhail Agrest made his Canadian debut with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and returned to Seattle Symphony, Bremer Philharmoniker and Sudwestdeutsche Philharmonie Konstanz in Germany. His opera projects included La Traviata and Weinberger’s Švanda dudák at Semperoper Dresden. After his triumph with La bohème at the Finnish National Opera, he was invited to lead a new production of Eugene Onegin, directed by Marco Arturo Marelli and described by Nezavisimaya Gazeta as “a rare union of music and theatre, owning mostly to the sophistication of the conductor, who has this music in his blood. A student of [Mariss] Jansons, he led the orchestra without missing a single voice, and the musicians faithfully followed every well-considered gesture.”
Mr. Agrest’s appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in 2003 conducting the Mariinsky Theatre in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezhsparked keen interest within the global opera community. He went on to lead a production of Tosca at the Swedish National Opera, Don Giovanni at Opera Australia, as well as the award-winning new production of Jenufa at the English National Opera, directed by David Alden.
The following passage from The Herald of Scotland offers a good summary of his reviews by the UK critics: “Agrest conducted a concert that progressed from intriguing to alluring to utterly gripping… the sheer musical tension was riveting. More of Mikhail Agrest, please.” His collaboration with the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden so far consisted of three well-received productions: Le Sacre du Printemps, Les Noces, and Romeo and Juliette. His work with the BBC Symphony dates back to 2007 and includes a Gubaidulina Festival at the Barbican as well as a recording of Rodion Shchedrin’s Concerto Parlando.
Following the success of a Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Richard Strauss program with Staatskapelle Dresden in 2013, Mr. Agrest was invited to lead a new production of Shostakovich’s Moscow-Cheryomushki, directed by Christiane Mielitz. “Nobody left the performance without having a tune stuck in their head,” reported Neue Musikzeitung. His Seattle Symphony debut was praised by The Seattle Times: “[The] program’s real surprise, however, was Agrest’s conducting – a performance of such inspired passion that the players were practically jolted out of their chairs. He conducted like a man possessed, as if lives depended on the outcome, and the energy and commitment of his music-making were positively operatic.”
Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Mr. Agrest immigrated to the United States with his family as a teenager and received a degree in violin performance from the Indiana University (Bloomington). He then followed his true passion back to St. Petersburg to study conducting from the legendary Ilya Musin, whose other alumni include Valery Gergiev, Yuri Temirkanov, and Semyon Bychkov.