Hungarian Gypsy music, classical Russian piano and Spanish flamenco feature among a diverse mix of styles at tonight's opening concert of the Abu Dhabi Classics festival. The Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons will present a performance called Journey of Emotions that promises to bring a varied musical feast to an audience gathered in the gold-leaf-adorned auditorium of the Emirates Palace hotel. As Christine Aguilera, the American pop singer, entertains fans in the grounds of the hotel, prominent classical musicians from across the world will play their part in the Abu Dhabi Government's drive to enhance the emirate's status as a cultural centre. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the concert. which was compared by Till Janczukowicz, executive director of Abu Dhabi Classics, to an international musical odyssey, "a movement around the world". "We have a variety of styles and a very colourful and diversified show," she said. The Hungarian violinist Roby Lakatos, known as the Devil's Fiddler, is famous for his blend of Gypsy music, jazz and classical themes. The line-up also includes Egypt's Musicians of the Nile with their tabla rhythms; the American soprano Indra Thomas, acclaimed for her passionate performances of Verdi; the German jazz trumpeter Till Brönner; the Russian classical pianist Arcadi Volodos and the flamenco performer Arcángel. The gala is the first in a year-long programme of classical concerts by some of the world's leading performers at venues including Abu Dhabi's National Theatre and Al Ain's Al Jahlili fort. The classical performances at the Emirates Palace hotel continue tomorrow when Bayreuth Festival Orchestra will perform the Wagner Gala. The orchestra has not previously played in the Middle East, and it will be only the second time it will have performed outside Europe. The Bayreuth Festival is held annually in Germany. It features exclusively operas by the 19th century German composer Richard Wagner, regarded by some musical historians as a key influence in the early development of modern classical forms. The European event, started by Wagner himself, takes place in a specially designed theatre and draws thousands of admirers, who must expect a wait of between seven and 10 years for tickets. Led by the conductor Christian Thielemann, the orchestra's set will include excerpts from Wagner's Ring, which depicts corruption, power and greed and, with more than 14 hours of music, is the world's longest opera. An initiative of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), Abu Dhabi Classics is also planning to host concerts by the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, the Chinese pianist Lang Lang, the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, the cellist Mischa Maisky and the Italian opera singer Cecilia Bartoli. In a lighter vein, the Grammy award-winning a cappella artist Bobby McFerrin, best known for his 1988 hit Don't Worry, Be Happy, is also scheduled. "Quality will always win in the long run, and this programme is very high quality," Ms Janczukowicz said. "It's a programme of the same level that you'd find in Vienna, London or Paris. "It is truly an honour to play a role in bringing together such renowned classical artists in a city that is striving for cultural excellence. The Abu Dhabi Classics season, as well as providing extensive musical insight and pleasure, has a strong educational aspect to it, aiming to unite people by their love of music." Abu Dhabi Classics is also initiating a number of educational projects at schools and universities. "In addition to the musical knowledge which the festival audience will acquire through academic lectures and specialised workshops in institutes and universities, Abu Dhabi Classics will mainly aim to consolidate knowledge, practical and theoretical cultural music in schools throughout various stages and age groups in accordance with an accredited educational programme," said Mohamed Khalaf al Mazrouei, the director general of Adach. Tickets for Abu Dhabi Classics are available at Virgin Megastores, from www.timeouttickets.com, or by calling 800-4669. Some tickets may be available at the box office. email@example.com
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