x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Wealth of culture as high-profile arts festival is in the capital for its 10th year

The Abu Dhabi Festival returns for its tenth year next March, and offers a programme full of big names - Placido Domingo, Gilberto Gil, Shakespeare's Globe, Joshua Bell, Li Yundi, Bryn Terfel, the Mariinsky Ballet and Bechara El Khoury.

The Czech Philharmonic. Courtesy Zdenek Chrapek
The Czech Philharmonic. Courtesy Zdenek Chrapek

It is easily one of the classiest events in the region. The Abu Dhabi Festival, celebrating its 10th year, presents a feast of elegant artistic events, encompassing classical music, theatre, dance and art. Running from March 3 to 31, the festival will host 29 productions and 100 events across 35 venues over 28 days. Previous headliners include José Carreras, Wynton Marsalis, the London Symphony Orchestra and Anoushka Shankar, as well as stage performances of Puccini’s opera La Bohème and the ballet La Bayadère. With most major events happening within the gilded interior of Emirates Palace, you have time to get those suits and cocktail dresses ready for these forthcoming soirées.

A night at the opera

The festival’s growing pedigree has helped it attract premiere opera artists. This year the festival unleashes its biggest name yet: the legendary tenor Plácido Domingo. Performing on March 20 at the Emirates Palace Auditorium, the Spaniard is set to enrapture audiences with a selection of arias, with support provided by the Grammy Award-winning soprano Ana María Martínez and the Czech Philharmonic. The Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel will also perform at the auditorium on March 26, alongside the rising opera star Viktoria Yastrebova in an evening full of popular arias and traditional Welsh favourites.

Shakespeare in love

Globe Education – the education wing of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London – returns with a new, fast-paced production of Romeo and Juliet on March 3 and 4 at the Breakwater on the Abu Dhabi Corniche. The Globe is renowned as more than a theatre, and part of Globe Education’s manifesto is to ignite and rekindle a love of Shakespeare among young people with innovative productions staged in schools, universities and international festivals. Globe Education has already won a loyal following in the UAE for its Macbeth (2011) and March’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, both selling out.

Poet of the violin

One of the world’s most celebrated violinists will also join the festivities. Joshua Bell – and his 1713 Huberman Stradivarius – will hit the Emirates Palace Auditorium on March 22, performing pieces from a career spanning 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and conductor. He will be joined by the Czech Philharmonic. For those preferring the keyboard, the arrival of Li Yundi on March 24 for a performance at the auditorium should hit the spot. The classical pianist is set to enchant audiences with his Piano Passion: Yundi in Recital, a programme composed of romantic sonatas by Chopin and Beethoven. For something more lively, the Brazilian jazz man Gilberto Gil will perform his signature samba and bossa nova numbers at the Emirates Palace Auditorium (date to be announced).

Russian masters

Another major festival draw is the much-anticipated UAE premiere of the Mariinsky Ballet. Formed in the 1740s in St Petersburg, the ballet group is part of the backbone of Russia’s dance history. Joined by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, the group will perform Homage to Fokine on March 14 and 15 at Emirates Palace. The programme consists of four dazzling short ballets – Chopiniana, Le Spectre de la Rose, The Dying Swan and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade – choreographed by the Russian dance legend Michel Fokine.

A world premiere

In celebration of the festival’s decade-long run, the Franco-Lebanese composer and poet Bechara El Khoury has been commissioned to compose Poème Orientale, which will make its world premiere at the festival, performed by the Czech Philharmonic on March 26 at the Auditorium. Another Abu Dhabi Festival commission is the Rahbani Legacy, a production exploring the poetry, theatre and music of the influential Lebanese composers and brothers Assi and Mansour Rahbani. The production, to be performed at the Auditorium on March 25, has been created by Mansour’s son Ghadi and Oussama Rahbani.

On the canvas

The region’s art community will be celebrated with the premiere of the 25 Years of Arab Creativity exhibition, running from March 5 to 31 (venue to be announced). With works by more than 30 artists from 13 Arab nations, including two Emirati artists, the event celebrates two anniversaries – 25 years of the Paris-based cultural organisation Institut du Monde Arab (The Arab World Institute) and 10 years of the Abu Dhabi Festival. There will also be a series of art workshops and guided tours catering to schools and universities. An arts competition will also be held, with the inaugural Christo & Jeanne-Claude Award to be given to the winning artist by Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan. The venue for the exhibition is yet to be announced.

Local flavour

The UAE’s rich poetry tradition will be highlighted with Bil Arabi, a production by the poet Dr Habib Gholoum Al Altar, who will recite Arabic poetry detailing the UAE’s ancestral traditions.

Details and tickets

Festival tickets go on sale today from www.timeoutickets.com/abudhabifestival. Early Bird tickets to the Emirates Palace performances, beginning from Dh263, are on sale until January 11. Normal prices range from Dh125 to Dh350. Exceptions are Plácido Domingo at the Palace: from Dh295 (Early Bird Dh222); Piano Passion: Yundi in Recital: Dh100 (Early Bird Dh75); and Romeo and Juliet: Dh50 (Early Bird Dh38). With more artists and programmes set to be announced, make sure to visit the Abu Dhabi Festival website www.abudhabifestival.ae.