The curtain fell on the Abu Dhabi Festival in spectacular style on Tuesday with its gala show.
The evening started with the world premiere of the French-Lebanese composer Bechara El Khoury’s Poème Orientale. Performed by The Czech Philharmonic, it was a somewhat unusual orchestral arrangement, with arresting chord changes and frenetic string movements. But it was quintessentially Arab, the music evoking desert journeys and sweeping sands.
Next up, the audience were treated to the talent of one of the world’s greatest opera singers, Bryn Terfel.
The Welsh bass-baritone possesses a voice of such magnitude that it easily filled the capacious hall as he belted out arias from the likes of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and Verdi’s Il Trovatore. Accompanying him was the Russian soprano Victoria Yastrebova, who provided a delicate counterpart to Terfel’s booming sonic fortitude.
The second half began with what is probably Richard Wagner’s second-most famous instrumental composition, the Overture to Tannhäuser being out-famed by The Ride of the Valkyries’ cinematic associations.
After accompanying the violinist Joshua Bell earlier in the week, the Czech Philharmonic again lived up to its reputation as one of the world’s best ensembles, with an immaculate rendition of Wagner’s marvellously stirring piece.
The concert progressed with Terfel and Yastrebova alternating over a selection of show tunes, from George Gershwin’s Summertime to Leonard Bernstein’s I Feel Pretty.
While all this was quite entertaining, Terfel’s prodigious voice had a tendency to overwhelm some of the numbers. That said, during his finale of Impossible Dream from Mitch Leigh’s Man of La Mancha, his tone was perfect for the tune’s grandeur.
On the strength of this year’s extraordinary performances, one hopes the Abu Dhabi Festival continues for at least another decade.
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