x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

What to expect at the Abu Dhabi Festival 2014

We bring you a preview of what to expect at the region's largest cultural festival, which runs from March 2 to 31 next year.

The soprano Renée Fleming will perform at the Abu Dhabi Festival next year. Neilson Barnard / Getty Images / AFP
The soprano Renée Fleming will perform at the Abu Dhabi Festival next year. Neilson Barnard / Getty Images / AFP

The organisers of the largest cultural festival in the region have left no stone unturned to assemble the biggest acts from around the world for the 11th Abu Dhabi Festival. The festival, which focuses on classical art forms, theatre, music and cultural heritage, will be inaugurated with the international sound artist Bill Fontana’s interpretation of Abu Dhabi at a world premiere show in March. The lead-up to the main celebrations will be marked by a pre-event concert in January by the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, led by the award-winning conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Creative innovation

Creating new sights and sounds by meshing traditional with modern techniques will be the highlight of next year’s programme. The festival will combine the flair of international artists and familiarity of local talent for a 10-day schedule of performances, exhibitions, discussions and workshops, starting on March 2.

Festivalgoers will get a taste of creations born out of the convergence of art and technology, youth enthusiasm and cultural exposure. All seven emirates will be part of the education and community sessions under the Bilad Al Khayr (The Land of Blessings) theme.

“Next year’s programme highlights the festival’s ongoing commitment to creative innovation,” says Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo, the founder and artistic director of the Abu Dhabi Festival.

“By bringing cultural practices and artistic expression to the forefront of public thought, the festival will generate debate, discussion, engagement and enjoyment across audiences of all ages.”

She adds: “There is an intimate connection between arts and innovation. They share the same DNA. Innovation does not just derive from culture but is culture itself. The festival will go beyond the obvious, exploring how arts inspires innovation in other fields and society as a whole.”

The pre-launch concert

There will be a taster of what can be expected at the festival on January 27, when the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra will perform under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel, a conductor who has worked with some of the greatest musical institutions in the world. The orchestra, formed in 1975, comprises 200 musicians between the ages of 18 and 28 and is the flagship of the orchestral academic programme of the Fundación Musical Simón Bolívar.

The world premieres

Keeping the spirit of novelty at its core, the festival will regale audiences with a series of acts never seen in the country before. The American composer and sound sculptor Bill Fontana will premiere a commissioned piece, Desert Soundings – an interpretation of the capital by its sounds, which Fonatana says “will be a multichannel sound and multimedia installation revealing the hidden voices of the desert”. This exhibition will go on until April 20. The artist will also receive the Abu Dhabi Festival Arts Award during the event.

Country of honour

The arts and culture of the United States will be on display, with the festival honouring artists and work emerging from the country. Headlining will be the jazz star Herbie Hancock, one of the originators of post-bop music in the 1960s, who will be making his Arab world debut.

Hancock will be accompanied by the versatile American soprano Renée Fleming, making her UAE debut. Fleming, a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, performs Mozart compositions, French opera and indie rock.

The American Ballet Theatre will present its larger-than-life musical Coppelia, showcasing the country’s performing arts heritage. It performs to 400,000 people every year, under the direction of Kevin McKenzie.

Spotlight on young international artists

The festival will celebrate young international artists who have taken the arts scene by storm. Topping the list is the classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglic from Montenegro, known for his technical prowess and subtle compositions. He won Gramophone’s prestigious Young Artist of the Year Award in 2011 and was named Classic BRIT Master­Card Breakthrough Artist of the Year last year.

The European Union Youth Orchestra, a cultural ambassador for the EU since 1976, will be uniting cultures through music.

The Lebanese pianist Michel Fadel will lead the final act at Emirates Palace, closing with tunes inspired by Arabic traditions.

Youth in focus

Emirati artistry will be encouraged through a new programme, Youth@TheFestival. Young people will be given the opportunity to share their ideas and inventions via an online platform and curate events at the Ghaf Gallery and The Space in the capital.

In the second year of the ADF’s Visual Arts programme, emerging Emirati artists and students will get to rub shoulders with the veterans at the festival and learn from the best in the profession. The annual Young Artists Day will allow artists to take on new challenges and motivate them to create and collaborate in competitions.

“Through participation with and presentation of some of the most exceptional artists today, the people of Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE will have the opportunity to savour world-class experiences that will inspire, inform and ignite the imagination for many years to come,” says Al Khamis-­Kanoo.

“When we teach children arts, literature and music, we are preparing them for capabilities in innovation. And when science complements the passion of arts, the UAE will truly become an entrepreneurial nation,” she adds.

Traditional art forms will be on display across the country, expressing the Bilad Al Khayr concept integral to the festival. Ashtar Theatre from Palestine, in collaboration with Arts for All, will be taking its production of 1,001 Nights on the road to Sharjah, Fujairah and Al Ain. The company will also visit educational institutions, schools and special-needs centres in Abu Dhabi, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah. Music and arts workshops in orphanages will be held at hospitals and special-needs centres across the UAE to promote arts among all age groups.

The Emirates International Peace Music Festival celebrates its 10th edition. Nationwide concert tours will focus on introducing an orchestra comprising 80 to 120 musicians from countries including Austria, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Hungary and China. The choral group will include about 100 Arab children and adults from around the world and local UAE schools to perform the world premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony Number 9 (4th Movement) in Arabic.

• For more information on the venues, times and ticket prices, visit www.abudhabifestival.ae

aahmed@thenational.ae