ABU DHABI // On the 200th anniversary of his birth, two cultural groups hope to highlight the link between Abu Dhabi and the romantic ideals of German composer Richard Wagner.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority has partnered with the Richard Wagner Society Abu Dhabi to host the Richard Wagner Bicentenary Programme on December 10 and 11.
The event will include a discussion of Wagner’s work, a concert and a screening of a film version of his opera Tristan and Isolde.
Ronald Perlwitz, a literature professor at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, is a Wagner expert and will be speaking at the Abu Dhabi event.
He said he hopes listeners can relate to the composer’s personal love saga and appreciate his universal appeal.
Mr Perlwitz said the Middle East greatly influenced Wagner and his contemporaries, who considered the region “the place of magic, the place of dreams, the place of One Thousand and One Nights.”
As for the romance, Mr Perlwitz said Wagner’s unrequited love for a married woman served as a main inspiration. Tristan and Isolde was based on an old European love story dating “far before Romeo and Juliet”.
“It’s one of those couples like Layla and Majnun – it’s the myth of the two lovers who cannot come together, and for this reason, in a way, are madly in love with each other,” he said.
Writing the opera was Wagner’s way “to live his relation to her”, Mr Perlwitz added.
Zaki Nusseibeh, Cultural Adviser to the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, is the Wagner society’s president and co-founder.
He said the intensity of Wagner’s music and “vast dramas” share similarities with those in the Arab tradition.
Mr Nusseibeh recounted a story about a local college student who attended a previous Wagner concert and later wrote to the organisers, saying she couldn’t sleep the whole weekend because the music had stayed with her.
The programme starts with the round table on December 10 at 6pm, featuring Mr Nusseibeh, Mr Perlwitz, musicologist Anno Mungen and literature professor Uwe Steiner. A concert follows at 8pm, featuring pieces performed by soprano Kristin Ebner and pianist Evgeny Nikiforov.
The outdoor screening of Tristan and Isolde starts at 7pm on December 11. The events, held at Manarat Al Saadiyat in the Saadiyat Cultural District, are fully booked.
This event is the first in a planned series of concerts in Abu Dhabi called Classical Music Encounters Between East and West.