Rotterdam mayor Ivo Opstelten presented the honor, which recognizes achievements in the arts, sports, and literature, on behalf of Queen Beatrix.
Gergiev founded the festival in 1996, a year after he became the music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic. The peripatetic conductor is also artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, and director of the Stars of the White Nights festival in St. Petersburg, the Moscow Easter Festival, and the Mikkeli International Festival in Finland. Starting in 2007 he will be principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.
The Gergiev Festival runs through September 17. This year's theme is "icons of the fin de sicle"; the program includes music by Wagner, Liszt, and Mahler.