Abu Dhabi Festival unveils program for 2015

The 2015 Abu Dhabi Festival is filled eclectic concerts, experimental theatre and film screenings. Sergio Mendes is to perform on the opening night.
Sergio Mendes will open the festival with a performance at the Emirates Palace Auditorium on March 20, 2015. Getty Images
Sergio Mendes will open the festival with a performance at the Emirates Palace Auditorium on March 20, 2015. Getty Images

One of the region’s biggest music and cultural gatherings is set to return in March with the 12th edition of the Abu Dhabi Festival. Run by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, the month-long event runs from March 3 to April 2 and includes a series of concerts, experimental theatre and film screenings. This year, Italy has been selected as the country of honour, with a March 25 performance by the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra, led by conductor Riccardo Multi.

“2015 will be a groundbreaking edition with a world-class calibre of artists,” says Admaf founder and festival curator Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo. “I hope we will once again excite and inspire local and international audiences.”

Connecting ideas

Each year the festival line-up is built around a specific theme. After last edition’s slogan of Creative Innovation, Al Khamis Kanoo says the latest edition will run under the banner Idea: The Seed of Invention.

“Invention is the promise of a new future and new possibilities – not for us but for our children and the wider region,” she says. “This is all that lies beneath the Abu Dhabi Festival and Admaf. Through encounters with excellence, we as individuals can be inspired to look beyond our own boundaries and conceive new ideas and new ambitions for the betterment of ourselves as well as others.”

The bossa nova king is coming

Every year, the Abu Dhabi Festival has brought artists responsible for influencing their genre. This year is no different, with the Brazilian bossa nova and jazz luminary Sérgio Mendes performing at the Emirates Palace Auditorium on March 20.

The 73-year-old was a favourite at home in the early 60s before being propelled to international stardom courtesy of the seminal band Mendes & Brasil ’66 and his 1968 cover of Dusty Springfield’s The Look of Love.

Since then Mendes has built a strong and steady career; he scored a 1981 chart-topping hit with Never Gonna Let You Go and in 1992 won a Grammy Award for the album Brasileiro.

As well as the classics, expect some new Mendes tunes in his Abu Dhabi show. His latest album Magic, released in September, has collaborations with the likes of John Legend, will.i.am and Cody Wise.

The festival house band

The world’s leading orchestras and classical-music maestros are also coming to the capital. On the vocal front, the Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez will perform on March 23 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra (the ensemble is pretty much the Abu Dhabi Festival house band next year, with this being the first of three performances).

Also on the way is the award-winning pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. The Norwegian’s March 26 programme will feature selections by Beethoven and Brahms and will also be backed by the Budapest Festival Orchestra. The Hungarian musicians will cap off their Abu Dhabi Festival stay on March 28 and 30 as they lead a cast of soloists in a performance of Mozart’s masterpiece The Magic Flute.

Young talents on display

The festival is launching a series of recitals to showcase the talents of the next generation of virtuosos. Artists taking part in the concerts at the intimate M 031 Room in Emirates Palace are South Korea’s Ah Ruem Ahn on March 3, Belgium’s Julien Libeer on March 13 and the Dominican Republic violinist Aisha Castro on March 17.

On March 24 there will be a performance by the pianist Jan Lisiecki at the Emirates Palace Ballroom. The 19-year-old Canadian will make his Gulf debut after having performed in venues such as London’s Royal Albert Hall and New York’s Carnegie Hall.

The following night, the Emirates Palace Auditorium will see the return of the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, who will perform works by Rossini, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. She will be accompanied by Italy’s up-and-coming Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra.

Urban Shakespeare

In what is set to be a sell-out show, the Chicago hip-hop duo Q Brothers will perform their innovative take on Shakespeare’s Othello at the Abu Dhabi Theatre on March 5. Othello: The Remix reimagines Othello as an MC who rises from the ghetto to the top of the charts and falls in love with the singer Desdemona. However, members of the hip-hop community are jealous of Othello’s success and begin making plans for the rapper’s demise.

The finale

The Abu Dhabi Festival closes with a special performance by Mayssa Karaa on April 2. The 23-year-old Lebanese singer was a student at the Conservatory of Beirut before moving to America where she cemented her classical music knowledge at the Berklee College of Music. After a string of regional shows Karaa made an international impact with her Arabic take on Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, which featured in the Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated film American Hustle. The film’s success resulted in Karaa performing internationally and has raised anticipation for her upcoming debut album, which will be released not long after her Abu Dhabi appearance. She will team up with the MK Orchestra at the Emirates Palace Auditorium, making the festival audience among the first to hear selections from the new release.

Visual arts at the Emirates Palace Gallery

Expect new works by two of the UAE’s leading visual artists Noor Al Suwaidi and Fatma Lootah. Both were commissioned to create artworks to be unveiled as part of the festival. Details of the pieces will be released in the future. Evocative photography from the region will also be shown as part of Views From Inside, an exhibition curated by the American organisation FotoFest. Both exhibitions run from March 20 and will conclude after the festival on April 20.

Community and education programme

As well as the big performances on the Emirates Palace stage, the Abu Dhabi Festival is also running events around the emirate targeting young minds and the wider community. The festival’s education stream includes Ministry of Science Live, an hour-long interactive performance and workshop looking at different types of energy used in the modern world. The Young Artists Day also returns for its seventh edition, where students from Abu Dhabi schools collaborate for a concert.

The festival’s community programme focuses on local stories both on the screen and the page. An Abu Dhabi Festival tent will be built for two days to hold screenings of local films, documentaries and film projects that have UAE support or involvement. Some of the filmmakers will also attend a question-and-answer session after the screening.

Book lovers should relish the World Storytelling Day event, which will run in both Arabic and English. The story sessions will be held in relaxed settings that include beanbags. The Emirati authors Maitha Al Khayat and Noura Al Noman will run the children and adult sessions respectively. Details of the events and dates will be announced on www.abudhabifestival.ae soon.

• Tickets go on sale on Wednesday, December 10,; Emirates Palace Auditorium shows start from D125; Emirates Ballroom and recital-series performances are Dh150. Tickets for Othello: The Remix are Dh50. For details, go to www.abudhabifestival.ae. For tickets, go to www.timeouttickets.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae

Published: December 9, 2014 04:00 AM

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