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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Abu Dhabi pupils create own night at the opera to celebrate Sheikh Zayed

A team of 80 pupils across three schools in the capital have joined forces for the culture project

Pupils polish up their dance skills for their very own opera production. Courtesy Cranleigh School 
Pupils polish up their dance skills for their very own opera production. Courtesy Cranleigh School 

Abu Dhabi pupils are ready to take centre stage after creating their own opera to celebrate the conservationist spirit of the UAE's Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi school has joined forces with the UAE's Ministry of Tolerance and the Arts Center at New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi to develop a thought-provoking new production, inspired by Sheikh Zayed's passion for the environment and sustainability and his belief that water is the country's most valuable resource.

More than 80 pupils - mostly drawn from Cranleigh with support from British International School Abu Dhabi and Brighton College Abu Dhabi - will bring their vision to life at NYU Abu Dhabi's Red Theater for a double bill of performances on October 25 and 26.

The opera is entitled Water in the Desert: A Zayed Legacy

Two years ago, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi created an opera, Beautiful World, which was based on a poem written by Sheikh Zayed.

Jo Lee, head of performing arts at the school, believes the project is instilling confidence in the children.

“This opera was created by the pupils and that’s very exciting,” said Ms Lee.

The project got underway in June with pupils from the three participating schools taking part in four days of workshops to develop the storyline, music, design and dance composition.

For a lot of children, this will be the first time they have taken part in an opera.

"The performing arts help children develop creativity, confidence, and enthusiasm for sharing, as well as a sense of responsibility,” said Ms Lee.

“Greening the desert is the legacy we are following from Sheikh Zayed.”

Pupils have been rehearsing the opera for the past month.

Most of the performers are aged between 11 and 18, with a group of six and seven-year-olds also involved.

”The opera looks at a journey through the desert while looking at our use of water and plastic. The opera is integrating Sheikh Zayed’s words into the songs as well as the design concept,” said Ms Lee.

Michael Wilson, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi’s headmaster, said the opera will help build a greater understanding of the UAE's heritage while boosting pupil's skills.

“Creative arts form an important part of our approach to education, helping young people grow in confidence and develop all kinds of important capabilities from teamwork to empathy, and risk-taking to problem-solving,” he said.

Saif, a 13-year-old Emirati pupil at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, is part of the music and drama group of the opera. He also participated in Beautiful World in 2016.

Young pupils show off their singing skills in preparation for their opera show inspired by Sheikh Zayed. Courtesy Cranleigh School 
Young pupils show off their singing skills in preparation for their opera show inspired by Sheikh Zayed. Courtesy Cranleigh School 

“The first opera was something new for me. This time, I am excited to see how this year will be different. I’m looking forward to this journey as it was a lot of fun last time,” he said.

“Performing this opera in the year of Zayed is special to me as a pupil and as an Emirati. It means a lot to me that we are showing people what Sheikh Zayed did.”

Siena, a 14-year-old Australian pupil at Cranleigh, is part of the dance company in the opera.

“I'm excited about working with pupils from outside the school,” she said.

Participating in an opera wasn’t something the pupil had considered before she worked on this project.

“I like the topic of environmental waste and what the UAE does to prevent that.

“I was one of the youngest people last time, and was really nervous and didn’t want to participate at first. Now, I’m a lot more comfortable.”

Mona, a 13-year-old Emirati pupil participating in the opera, said that the theme of environment and awareness appealed to her.

“We are talking about Sheikh Zayed and what the world should be,” she said.

“When I first joined Cranleigh, I was the shyest person here. Now I feel I am more confident. This experience helps us.”

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Read more:

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Dubai Opera announces new season of shows: here are 6 to see

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