x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Round-up of shining moments from the Abu Dhabi Festival

With the 10th Abu Dhabi Festival concluding this week, our team of reviewers look back at highlights of what was a month of music and arts from some of the world's finest.

The Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo's performance at Emirates Palace. DELORES JOHNSON / The National
The Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo's performance at Emirates Palace. DELORES JOHNSON / The National

Romeo & Juliet’s costume party

In this modern adaptation, the director Bill Buckhurst opted to remove the action from its original Italian Renaissance setting and transfer it to a deprived British housing estate. Perhaps the standout scene was the ball where the star-crossed lovers first meet, envisaged as a fancy-dress party. It’s doubtful that Batman, Scooby-Doo, Elvis and Darth Vader have ever before danced together onstage in a production of Shakespeare.

* Hugo Berger


Gilberto Gill lets the Emirates Palace crowd imagine

The Brazilian music legend performed a crowd-pleasing set featuring a selection of hits and covers pulled from a five-decade career. His rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine was performed acoustically, with Gil’s raspy voice and history of political exile giving the performance a powerful resonance.

* Saeed Saeed


In awe of Plácido Domingo

He performed arias and big Broadway tunes, but the legendary Spanish tenor saved the best for last with a wonderfully interactive encore including the classic Granada and the Latin American folk classic Besame Mucho.

* Saeed Saeed


The Mariinsky Ballet’s swan dive

Perhaps the most famous solo in all classical ballet was danced beautifully, with those famous, fluttering arm movements married to tiny, delicate steps en pointe. Death has seldom looked so gorgeous.

* Kevin McCardle


Emirates Youth Symphony Orchestra take control

Not content to let the grown-ups steal all the thunder, the Emirates Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Premiere Music College of Prague collaborated for a free performance at Abu Dhabi’s National Theatre. The Ukrainian violinist Marta Hereha may have been a guest but the kids were the ones truly in charge.

* Saeed Saeed


Joshua Bell’s fast-fingered fiddling

With his shirt untucked, his trademark mop of floppy hair and jig-like motion on the balls

of his feet as he played, the violinist Joshua Bell was an extraordinary force of nature to behold. Bell encored with a take on the folk tune Yankee Doodle Dandy, giving him a chance to show off his dazzling, warp-speed finger work.

* Hugo Berger


Yundi strikes the right note

As the youngest winner of the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw when he was just 18, Yundi’s career is indissolubly linked with the 19th-century Polish composer. During this show, the Chinese virtuoso’s performance of what is probably Chopin’s most recognised piece, the exquisite Nocturne No 2 in E flat major, was a note-perfect display of musicianship.

* Hugo Berger


In homage to the Rahbanis

All seven lead vocalists brought energy, passion and virtuosity to their performance of the famous Lebanese brothers’ classic Middle Eastern tunes. When the entire cast congregated on stage to sing Layl Layl Layl, few in the audience could resist clapping and singing along.

* Hugo Berger


The Czech Philharmonic’s masterstroke

Creating a memorable finale to this year’s festival were performances of arias and Broadway tunes by the opera stars Bryn Terfel and Victoria Yastrebova. But for many, the highlight of the night was the Czech Philharmonic orchestra’s deeply stirring rendition of Richard Wagner’s Overture to Tannhäuser.

* Hugo Berger


Sheikha Maryam bint Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan wins the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award

After winning the inaugural Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, presented by New York University Abu Dhabi in partnership with the festival organisers Abu Dhabi Music and Art Foundation, the granddaughter of the late president Sheikh Zayed expressed hope that the annual competition would inspire fellow local artists. “You will never know how good your work is until you show it to the world,” Sheikha Maryam said. “It is a scary thing but something that all artists should do.”

* Saeed Saeed