Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 November 2019

Abu Dhabi Festival proves there is no substitute for hard work

The month-long festival was full of great performances by inspiring artists

Bryn Terfel studied the character of Scarpia for a year to get it just right. Getty
Bryn Terfel studied the character of Scarpia for a year to get it just right. Getty

If anyone needs more proof that Abu Dhabi is an established global cultural destination, look no further than this month’s happenings

Over the past 30 days, the capital has been a hive of activity with scores of leading artists gracing the city for performances as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival, which concludes this weekend.

As a culture reporter for this paper, I have criss-crossed the city to stay abreast of all the experiences on offer. I also had the opportunity to sit down with a variety of personalities to glean insights on how they rose to the top of their respective fields.

Those who think artists achieve their standing just because of natural talent will be disappointed; while that may play a small role in kick-starting their interest, the reality is less glamorous. It’s mostly down to hard work, a fair bit of sacrifice and consistency. This all proves, once again, that there are no shortcuts in life. You get out of it what you put in.

On March 15, the crowd at Emirates Palace were enthralled by supreme Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel’s performance as part of the production Tosca. His take on the lasciviously corrupt detective Scarpia was mesmerising.

In it, he gave an energetic three-hour performance, and – as he told me in an interview prior to the show – it came on the back of a year of intense study. “You have to look at it from a long-term perspective,” he said. “I studied Tosca for a year before I even set foot on the stage. It was constant study, learning, reading and there was some frustration. It is now stored in my brain for life. I am ready to perform it anywhere.”

It will be a similar case tonight, when an audience sees the Paris Opera Ballet’s star ballerina Dorothee Gilbert in full flow in the performance of Jewels, also at Emirates Palace.

What many don’t know is that prior to her arrival in the capital, she was in virtual lock-down with the esteemed company as they undertook gruelling rehearsal sessions for the Abu Dhabi performance. “I am in my own world, in a sense, when I am preparing,” she told me. “I think of nothing other than the show.”

When it comes to fellow Abu Dhabi Festival performer and New York pianist Justin Kauflin, who was mentored by Quincy Jones, his challenge was more physical. He lost his sight at the age of 11 due to a degenerative condition, but he credits that condition for teaching him to be more practical and flexible. Since his disability hampered his efforts to learn classical music, due to its heavy emphasis on reading the musical notes, he invested his energy in studying jazz music, which he described as an “oral tradition”.

His sheer talent and sold-out March 11 show at NYU Abu Dhabi is a testament to his determination in the face of adversity.

As the Abu Dhabi Festival comes to a close, the event has not only inspired me – and the city – but it has once again affirmed that art and creativity can play a decisive role in helping us achieve our greatest potential.

Updated: March 28, 2019 05:17 PM

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