Quick Guide to Abu Dhabi Festival

Highlights of the 15th edition of the capital’s cultural jamboree

For many years now Abu Dhabi has proudly stood as a cultural powerhouse not only in the UAE but the Middle East as a whole. 2017 proved a watershed year, not least because of the eagerly awaited opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi that confirmed the capital’s status as an artistic force to be reckoned with.

The Abu Dhabi Festival is looking to tap into that piqued interest in the arts, bringing an entertaining, multidisciplinary cultural celebration to the city once more. So what’s it all about? Let us enlighten you...

1. In the beginning...
The festival first appeared on the capital’s cultural calendar in 2004, the fruits of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation’s labour of love. The debut performance that year came from the Syrian/French concert pianist Racha Arodaky who was joined on the stage by revered Canadian cellist Gary Hoffman. Since that opening act, ADF has attracted dozens more from across the world, including legendary tenors José Carreras and Plácido Domingo.

2. 2018: The “Year of Zayed”
Since 2010, each festival has had a specific theme – and the 15th edition is no different. This year’s festivities will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the UAE’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The organisers say: “Following Sheikh Zayed’s vision, we believe arts and culture are at the heart of the nation. They support tolerance and co-existence, are the means to further the nation’s pioneering spirit.”

3. Bring the music...
The highlights of this year’s musical line-up are too numerous to mention (this is a “Quick” guide after all) but we especially like the sound of leading violinist Nicola Benedetti’s concert with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (February 19), Waves of My Life by the Emirati composer Ihab Darwish (March 14) and a live show by Pink Martini, a “little orchestra” that spans the genres of classical, pop, Latin and jazz (March 21). All three events are being held in the Emirates Palace Auditorium, just to add to the sheer grandeur.

4. Witness the visual arts...
ADF 2018’s visual arts offering is being headlined by an Arab-world debut of works from the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art. From Barcelona to Abu Dhabi (its full title is a real mouthful) is being hosted by Manarat al Saadiyat from February 2 to March 17 and will recognise 90 years of pioneering contemporary art, with more than 100 works by over 70 artists from 20 countries, including 20 Emirati artists. Pieces from luminaries such as Minimal and Conceptual art founder Sol LeWitt, revered Venezuelan artist and sculptor Gego and the prolific Catalan poet, playwright, graphic designer and visual artist Joan Brossa will be among those on display.

5. Opera rocks...
Granted, opera isn’t everyone’s cup of lapsang souchong but we defy not to get excited about the chance to see two of the genre’s finest vocal exponents come together for a thoroughly unique performance. Multi award-winning American soprano Deborah Voigt will join forces with acclaimed Lebanese tenor Bechara Moufarrej for one night only (March 15, 8pm) at the Emirates Palace Auditorium. The latter will be displaying his full vocal range to the ADF audience as he tackles Rossini’s La Danza and Alfredo’s Aria from Verdi’s La Traviata. Bellisimo!

6. Let’s dance...
Even the most leaden-footed of us like to have a boogie every now and again but few do it better than those twirling girls and boys of Bollywood. And for two nights (March 8-9), the Emirates Palace Auditorium will be awash with colour and sound as The Merchants of Bollywood take to the stage and perform a medley of routines straight from Indian cinema. If you’re looking for something less frenetic and more balletic then the same venue will also be hosting a double bill of Don Quixote, as performed by Spain’s famous Compañía Nacional de Danza on March 29 and 30.

7. Talking workshops...
Screen and stage stars of the future are being shown the ropes by the experts as The UAE Theatre Circle is in full swing. Running until February 8, the series of workshops will teach budding actors the fine arts of improvisation, voice, movement and character development. The respected Thespian
Dr. Habib Ghuloom Al Attar will be passing on his knowledge during the sessions, building towards the grand finale of a public performance on March 31 as part of Festival In The Park.

8. Alfresco artistry...
And that leads us neatly on to one of the most anticipated events of this cultural jamboree, Festival In The Park. Taking place over two nights (March 22-23) in Umm Al Emarat Park, it promises to be a real crowd-pleaser. As this year’s “Country of Honour”, India is set to play a leading role in the festivities, not least on the Thursday when The Raghu Dixit Project, widely regarded as the nation’s biggest indie acts, takes to the stage. And Friday night will see Egypt’s marimba queen, Nesma Abdel Aziz, bring us a lively performance of her contemporary/classical fusion.

From Dhs125. Until March 31. Tickets are on sale at www.800tickets.com/abudhabifestival.

Delicious treats and international pop stars at du Arena 

Motorists can park their vehicle without having to pay over the holiday

NeoRun returns to make a splash at Yas Marina Circuit

Commuters will welcome hundreds of nifty new shelters 

Catch classics such as Harry Potter, Mamma Mia and IT

Employees will get three days off for the important holiday


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