Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, the 13th edition of the Abu Dhabi Festival will run from 3 – 30 April with a series of nationwide events celebrating 20 years since the launch of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF). At a launch event hosted at the home of Abu Dhabi Festival – the Emirates Palace – ADMAF today announced an exciting line-up of classical artists including superstar pianist Lang Lang and ballet dancer extraordinaire Carlos Acosta, both of whom will grace the stage of Abu Dhabi Festival 2016 (ADF16).
Celebrating the artistic excellence of its country of honour – France – ADF16 will also feature a stunning headline performance by world-renowned French singers Natalie Dessay and Laurent Naouri, as well as two exceptional evenings with France’s premiere symphony orchestra, Orchestre de Paris.
At a press conference on the stage of the Emirates Palace Auditorium, H.E. Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) and the Abu Dhabi Festival, was joined by the Chair of the Emirates Fine Arts Society (EFAS) Nasser Abdullah, where it was announced that ADF16 is collaborating with EFAS to establish The UAE Arts Archive – a definitive, comprehensive and official historical resource for the country’s visual arts sector.
ADMAF also welcomed The Ambassador of France, H.E. Michel Miraillet, who highlighted the importance of cross-cultural dialogue and the strong ties between the UAE and France ahead of ADF16.
Following the press conference H.E. Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo said: “This year, we are celebrating 20 years since the creation of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation. As part of our anniversary year, ADMAF shall dedicate its two decades of success and endeavours to HH Sheikha Fatima, Mother of The Nation, who singularly pioneered social advancement, who showed us the path of progress, and who continues to inspire the nation generation after generation. Abu Dhabi Festival also echoes the commitment of the UAE Leadership to consolidating the country’s position as a global capital for culture and knowledge in 2016, and as part of this, we are truly honoured to have the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose achievements in the realms of cultural diplomacy and human rights are admired throughout the world.
“As I look back on our 20 years, I can see that ADMAF has always been about humanity – the deep bonds we share and the ties that create unity and celebrate diversity. Humanity is always developing, always innovating, and as part of this, ADMAF has a commitment to bring the best of the world to Abu Dhabi, and in turn take the best of Abu Dhabi to the world. It is our pledge to humanity, and our pledge to culture. Let us commit again, as a society, as a country, as a people – to culture. ADF 2016 will strive to make culture accessible to more and more people across the Seven Emirates, across the Arab World and beyond.”
Launching ADF16’s presence at Emirates Palace, the exhibition Portrait of a Nation (10 April – 10 May) will commemorate ADMAF’s 20th anniversary through 20 commissioned works of art, and over 100 loaned pieces all by Emirati artists at The Gallery.
Following on from the official inauguration of Portrait of a Nation, world-famous and greatly-loved French soprano Natalie Dessayand acclaimed bass-baritone Laurent Naouri, will begin ADF16’s programme of concerts at Emirates Palace with Natalie Dessay and Laurent Naouri in Recital (10 April), accompanied by Maciej Pikulski. Commemorating France at the Festival’s Country of Honour, the audience will be treated to an evening of exquisite French song as these incomparable artists make their Arab world debuts. Their concert will include pieces by Fauré, Poulenc and Delibes, among others.
Heralded as one of the ‘hottest artists on the classical music planet’ by the New York Times, ADF16 will also welcome one of classical music’s greatest global stars as Chinese pianist Lang Lang takes to the Festival stage to perform masterpieces by Tchaikovsky, Bach and Chopin in Lang Lang in Recital (14 April). In celebration of the symbiotic relationship between France and the UAE, ADF16 will also welcome France’s premiere symphony orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, led by its inspirational Music Director Paavo Järvi, for two evenings of sublime classical music. The first (15 April) consists entirely of French music – Berlioz’s Overture Le Corsaire, Lalo’s Cello Concerto and Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No 3 (Organ Symphony) – and will feature virtuoso cellist Xavier Phillips and acclaimed organist Thierry Escaich, both making their Arab world debuts. The second (17 April) will consist of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, as award-winning violinist Sergey Khachatryan makes his UAE premiere, and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.
The Little Prince (21 and 22 April) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is one of the most universally cherished stories of all time. Nick Lloyd Webber and James D Reid’s immersive concert version of their new musical is set to enthrall and move audiences of all ages. It tells the captivating tale of a lost pilot who has crashed in the middle of the desert, and the young prince from a distant asteroid who he encounters there. A spell-binding, lyrical celebration of the imagination and the artist within us all is set to be perfect family entertainment.
Set to close the Festival in a spectacular finale, Carlos Acosta and Friends (25 & 26 April) will see the much celebrated Cuban-born ballet dancer make his Arab world debut with a programme of iconic classical ballet pieces alongside a company of world-class dancers. In a programme of exceptional dance, the outstanding evening will include extracts from Swan Lake and La Sylphide.
Commenting on France as ADF16’s Country of Honour, The Ambassador of France H.E. Michel Miraillet said: “Since its creation in 2004 by ADMAF, Abu Dhabi Festival has become a key element of the emirate’s cultural landscape. Year after year, bringing the best artists to Abu Dhabi, commissioning original projects, fostering cultural expression, this “symphony of cultures” makes quite a valuable contribution to the community.
“For its thirteenth edition, France will be the country of honour. This is obviously, for my fellow citizens and me, a source of pride and joy. The Festival also commemorates a long history of cultural relations. A number of French artists have come here for the past years: Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Roberto Alagna, Augustin Dumay, Sylvie Guillem, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Rachid Koraichi, Ibrahim Maalouf, Hassan Massoudy, Bechara El Khoury, Gautier Capuçon, to name but a few. I congratulate and thank Her Excellency Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo for the ongoing effort she puts into nurturing the cultural scene. In today’s world, this task is absolutely paramount.”
Returning for its second year, ADF16 will also welcome back the Festival Recital Series. Presented in partnership with New York University Abu Dhabi Arts Centre, Jazz at Lincoln Centre and Quincy Jones Productions, the series is a unique opportunity to experience the virtuosos of tomorrow. Piano prodigy Joey Alexander Trio (27 April) presents an evening of beloved jazz standards and original compositions; while the Grammy® nominated Alfredo Rodríguez Trio (28 April) channels the spirit of legendary jazz pianists Keith Jarrett and Thelonious Monk in a night of mesmerising energy, innovation and passion.
Just as the Abu Dhabi Festival brings the world to the UAE capital, so it also takes Abu Dhabi to the world with its latest series of international co-commissions and presentations. Beginning on February 12-14, the world premiere of a new multimedia production of Ravel’s Mother Goose will take place at the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, USA, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, Music and Artistic Director, and the Abu Dhabi Festival. The following week – on February 19 – Abu Dhabi Festival moves to the Olympia Theatre in Paris to present Naseer Shamma & The Global Music Ensemble. The oud master of Iraq joins renowned musicians from Italy, Spain, USA, Greece and Colombia for a journey that testifies to the unifying power of music.
Throughout 2016, Abu Dhabi Festival is supporting an international tour by Babel Theatre of The Baghdad Bath House written and directed by the award winning Iraqi playwright Jawad Al Assadi. Visiting Beirut, London, Marrakech and Brussels, the Arabic-language production, which stars Haida Abou Haidar and Aboud Dhaidan Al Hargani, follows a day in the life of two brothers, who begin to confront uncomfortable truths about themselves and their past.
In 2016, the Abu Dhabi Festival Composer’s Platform continues to support innovative new work by musicians and composers of Arab origin.
On February 6, the Madinat Theatre in Dubai shall play host to the world premiere of a new collaborative work by the UAE oud player and composer Faisal Al Sarri and Luzia Von Wyl from Switzerland, commissioned by the Abu Dhabi Festival. The piece will also be performed at a concert in Zurich later in the year, supported by the Abu Dhabi Festival.
In March, the Festival joins The Foundation for Arab Music Archiving & Research (AMAR) for a third collaboration – the worldwide release of a CD box set commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Egyptian musician and composer Mohammad Al Qasabgi (1892-1966).
Looking ahead to 2017, Abu Dhabi Festival has commissioned the acclaimed afro-tarab jazz composer and musician Tarek Yamanito embark on a research project – ‘Portraits in Khaleeji Rhythms and Jazz’ – which will explore the connections between jazz and khaleeji music.
The Abu Dhabi Festival has also commissioned the acclaimed Emirati-American composer Mohammed Fairouz to compose his fifth symphony, which will explore the story of the UAE and the universality of its values. The work will receive its world premiere at the 2020 edition of the Abu Dhabi Festival
Marking the culmination of ADMAF’s year-round commitment to arts education and community arts, ADF16 features a multitude of free, fun-filled events throughout the UAE this April from 3- 30 April, traversing all art forms – from music and theatre to dance, visual and traditional arts. Families will be able to enjoy a range of creative activities and artistic adventures at Mushrif Park. The mysteries of the universe will be revealed with The Ministry of Science, and there will be plenty of opportunities exclusively for students and young people such as The UAE Theatre School.