Robertas Šervenikas (b. 1966), the Second Conductor of the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra (LNSO), is often praised for the intensive and diverse creative activities ranging from the first performances of large-scale symphonic compositions by Lithuanian composers to distinctive and mature interpretations of contemporary and classical repertoire. Maestro pays equal attention to opera, ballet and symphonic music, with a special emphasis on contemporary opuses.
Šervenikas is the first performer of many works by Lithuanian composers, among which most memorable are a terrific production of O. Narbutaitė’s opera Cornet presented with the LNOBT company, performance of such majestic opuses as Algirdas Martinaitis’ Pieta, Onutė Narbutaitė’s Tres Dei Matris Symphoniae, Vidmantas Bartulis’ Poor Little Man Job together with the ensembles of the LNOBT and the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society. The conductor regularly participates in contemporary music festivals in Lithuania (Gaida, Jauna muzika, Iš arti, Marių klavyrai) as well as Vilnius Festival. He has recorded several dozen CDs of contemporary music, many of them issued by Naxos, Finlandia Records and other record companies.
Šervenikas began working with the LNSO in 1993. The maestro led this orchestra in Rheingau, Ludwigsburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Germany), Forbach, Berlioz and Evian (France), A. Benedetti-Michelangeli (Italy), Vilnius, Gaida and other festivals.
Šervenikas’ international career was launched in 1997, when Mstislav Rostropovich invited him as an assistant in the production of Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet at the Evian Festival. Since 2018, the tandem has repeatedly shared the stage of the world’s major concert halls. Šervenikas has been invited to conduct Israel Camerata, St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Slovenian National Opera, the Russian State Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic (Great Britain) among other foreign orchestras. In addition, he regularly collaborates with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra. Maestro has led various orchestras in almost all European countries, Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Republic of South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Oman, Israel and Russia. He has graced the podium in such halls as the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Auditorium de Nationale in Madrid, Alte Oper in Frankfurt, Cadogan Hall in London, Konzerthaus in Berlin, Festival Hall and Symphony Hall in Osaka, Tokyo Suntory Hall, Metropolitan Art Space, as well as the philharmonic halls of Cologne, Hamburg, St. Petersburg and Moscow. The German daily Der Tagesspiegel wrote:
“The way Šervenikas lightens the density of texture, punctuates transitions and electrifies the development till the last highly tense outbreak, reveals his truly international level. No less than the fact how the orchestra follows him with great attention, combines passion with professional precision.”
Prior to the pandemic, the conductor’s recent concert tours stretched across Norway, Germany, Sweden, and Mexico.
Maestro has collaborated with cellists Mstislav Rostropovich, David Geringas and Mischa Maisky, trumpeter Maurice André, pianists Denis Matsuev, Arcadi Volodos, Mikhail Pletnev, A.Volodin and Freddy Kempf, violinists Sarah Chang, Maxim Fedotov and Julian Rachlin, violists Wolfram Christ and Yury Bashmet to name but a few.
2017 saw a release of CD featuring British contemporary composer Peter Fribbins’ music in a performance of the Scottish Royal National Symphony Orchestra led by Šervenikas (Resonus Classics), 2018 – a new release of M.K. Čiurlionis’ symphonic poems under Maestro’s baton.
Opera and ballet occupy an important place in Šervenikas’ repertoire. In 2008–2018, he served as the Music Director at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, where he was instrumental in the production of many operas (Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Verdi’s La traviata, Bizet’s Carmen, J. Tamulionis’ The Tiny Lingonberry, Ponchielli’s I Lituani, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Wagner’s Lohengrin, O. Narbutaitė’s Cornet, Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle) and ballets (Barbora Radvilaitė, A. Šenderovas’ Desdemona, Delibes’ Coppélia, G. Kuprevičius’ Čiurlionis, Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin). His repertoire also includes ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Red Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle and Don Quixote.
Since 2008, he has enjoyed invitations to conduct at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. The recent rave reviews about Maestro Šervenikas’ triumphant reception at the Bavarian State Opera of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker staged by a celebrated American choreographer John Neumeier came from Munich. Abendzeitung Munich wrote on December 11, 2018:
“Conductor Robertas Šervenikas, in full harmony with the dancing on the stage, made the Bavarian State Orchestra play more the melodic softness than the angular sounds of some of the instruments.”
On the same day Süddeutsche Zeitung lauded:
“Thanks to Robertas Šervenikas at the conductors stand you will hear Tchaikovsky quite anew, shining and brilliant.”
The following was written about Romeo and Juliet in Süddeutsche Zeitung:
“The Bavarian State Orchestra, conducted by Robertas Šervenikas, revealed all the values of Sergei Prokofiev’s music. The long journey of Romeo and Juliet to death and the awakening to a flowering life was wonderfully conveyed.”
Šervenikas has also conducted the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra at the World Ballet Festivals in Japan. In 2020, he made his debut at the Zurich Opera House with the production of the ballet Sleeping Beauty under the pandemic conditions (conducted the orchestra from the rehearsal hall while the artists danced in the theatre). After the premiere, critics wrote:
“The sound was amazingly in sync. R. Šervenikas conveyed Tchaikovsky’s rich score not only enthusiastically, but also very subtly” (Oper actuell);
“Tchaikovsky’s music sounds wonderful not in the opera house, but in the rehearsal hall. But still live. Conductor R. Šervenikas and violinist H. Weinmeister were charming” (Tanznetz.de);
“The conductor’s pace showed determination, self-confidence – regardless of the expensive equipment, we felt as if back to the good old days of tape recordings” (Neue Zurcher Zeitung);
“Robertas Šervenikas conducted in the rehearsal hall, one kilometre apart from the opera house. The music was broadcast via fiber-optic cable and sounded really amazingly considering the empty orchestra pit. The musicians could hear a round of applause for Sleeping Beauty and the ballet” (Dance for you).
For his intensive creative work Šervenikas was honoured with the highest Lithuanian award – the Lithuanian National Arts and Culture Prize in 2005. In 2016, in recognition of his accomplishments and contribution to Lithuanian culture and art the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania decorated Maestro with insignia “Carry Your Light and Believe”.
After graduating from M.K. Čiurlionis School of Arts, Šervenikas furthered his education at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in St. Petersburg, where he studied choral, opera and orchestral conducting. Since 1996, he has taught at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre; is a professor at the Conducting Department. In 1996–2012, he has served as the conductor of the LAMT Symphony Orchestra. In the young.euro.classic festival in Berlin (2002), he led the LAMT Symphony Orchestra in the premiere of Anatolijus Šenderovas’ Concerto in Do, which received very favourable reviews in Germany and Lithuania (soloist – cellist David Geringas). Maestro is regularly invited to be a jury member in various competitions. For a number of years he has served as an Artistic Director of the International Tytuvėnai Summer Festival and Chaim Frenkel Festival in Šiauliai.