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Valery Gergiev and Mariinsky Orchestra perform concert in ruins of Palmyra

By
Allen Cone
Russian conductor Valery Gergiev conducted a concert at the Roman Theatre in Palmyra, which was built in the second century A.D. and is still largely intact after the occupation of the ancient city by the Islamic State. Photo by Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikipedia
Russian conductor Valery Gergiev conducted a concert at the Roman Theatre in Palmyra, which was built in the second century A.D. and is still largely intact after the occupation of the ancient city by the Islamic State. Photo by Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikipedia

PALMYRA, Syria, May 5 (UPI) -- Renowned Russian conductor Valery Gergievl performed a concert in the ruins of Palmyra on Thursday.

In March, Syrian forces, with help from Russian airstrikes, retook the ancient city from the Islamic State. IS, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, carried out killings in the ancient Roman theater, according to online footage, and destroyed several monuments during its 10-month occupation of the area. Two of the nearly 2,000-year-old temples were left in ruins.

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Gergiev conducted pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, Sergei Prokofiev and Rodion Shchedrin before a crowd that included Russian soldiers, government ministers and journalists.

The concert was broadcast on Russian state television.

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Gergiev is the artistic director of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre and also serves as the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

His performance was entitled "Pray for Palmyra. Music revives ancient remains" to commemorate those who died in the liberation and support efforts to restore the ruined architecture.

"Today's action involved major inconvenience and dangers for everyone, being in a country at war close to where hostilities are still ongoing," Gergiev said. "That has demanded great strength and personal courage from you all."

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However, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC the concert was "a tasteless attempt to distract attention from the continued suffering of millions of Syrians. It shows that there are no depths to which the regime will not sink".

In 2008, Gergiev performed in the capital of Georgia's South Ossetia region when Russia and Georgia were fighting over territory.

Gergiev has supported Russian President Vladimir Putin, who also addressed the audienceby video link from his Black Sea residence in Sochi.

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