Abu Dhabi Festival 2024 guide: Ballet, orchestras and jazz maestro Kamasi Washington

Annual event returns in January with a year-long programme, including performances at Louvre Abu Dhabi and NYUAD Arts Centre

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 10: Kamasi Washington performs at the Powerstation on October 10, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Simpson/WireImage/Getty Images)
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Ballet, classical music, opera and experimental jazz are on the bill for the coming Abu Dhabi Festival.

Beginning in January and running throughout the year at various venues in the capital, including Emirates Palace and Louvre Abu Dhabi, the programme features regional premiere performances by the China National Symphony Orchestra and American saxophonist Kamasi Washington.

China will be the country of honour at the festival, which runs under the theme of The Will for Hope. It will also feature cultural discussions and an international roster of concerts.

Here are some of the highlights.

The National Ballet of China, January 26 and 27

This will be a new take on the classic ballet The Nutcracker by Pyotr Tchaikovsky for Chinese New Year. It is set in Beijing and is inspired by locations in Chinese mythology, such as the Kingdom of the Crane and the Porcelain Kingdom.

Amid the lush backdrop is the story of a young woman's journey into a fantasy land while on a quest for love.

January 26, from 8pm; January 27, from 4.30pm; Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental

Puccini Opera Gala, January 31

Hear some of Giacomo Puccini’s greatest works by an ensemble dedicated to the Italian composer.

Under the baton of conductor Jan Latham-Koenig, the Orchestra of the Puccini Festival will mark the century since Puccini’s death with some of his greatest pieces from operas such as Madama Butterfly and Turandot sung by soprano Valeria Sepe and tenor Francesco Meli.

January 31, from 8pm; Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental

Pablo Ferrandez, February 1

Hailed by French newspaper La Figaro as a “new cello genius", Spain’s Pablo Ferrandez will perform songs from his debut album Reflections.

As well as winning the prestigious Opus Klassik Award, the album features star guests including German violinist and former Abu Dhabi Festival performer Anne-Sophie Mutter, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and American pianist Lambert Orkis.

Ferrandez will be accompanied by Spanish pianist Luis Del Valle.

February 1, from 7.30pm; The Blue Hall, The Arts Centre at NYU Abu Dhabi

Kamasi Washington, February 3

The American saxophonist and bandleader is part of a new legion of artists expanding jazz parameters by melding elements of hip-hop, electronic and soul music.

An electrifying performer, Washington has performed in venues ranging from hallowed jazz clubs such as New York’s Blue Note to rock festivals such as Coachella in the US and Spain’s Primavera.

February 3, from 8pm; Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental

Leia Zhu, February 9

The British-Chinese violin prodigy will perform a recital as part of a five-day residency programme.

In addition to guiding a select group of 30 students, the residency ends with participants joining Zhu, 17, for a special concert at the school auditorium.

February 9, from 7.30pm; The British School Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi

Pretty Yende and Francesco Demuro, February 11

South Africa’s Yende caught the attention of millions after singing at the coronation of Britain's King Charles III.

She will be joined by Francesco Demuro, whose career has spanned roles at leading opera houses, including Italy's Verona Arena and London's Royal Opera House.

The duo will perform a programme featuring pieces from Italian composers Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini and Giuseppe Verdi.

February 11, from 7.30pm; The Red Theater, The Arts Centre at NYU Abu Dhabi

Yamen Saadi, February 13

Appointed concertmaster at the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Vienna Philharmonic, the Nazareth-born violinist is hailed as a prodigy and has played across Europe and Asia.

He comes to Abu Dhabi on the back of his new recital album Voices from Paris.

February 13, from 7.30pm; The Red Theatre, The Arts Centre at NYU Abu Dhabi

Lawrence Brownlee, February 25

The American tenor is renowned for his bel canto opera repertoire and has been praised by leading industry names including Joyce DiDonato.

Making his debut in a 2002 American production of The Barber of Seville, Brownlee's career grew with roles at New York's Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Madrid's Teatro Real.

Earlier this year, he released the solo album Rising, featuring works by six up-and-coming African-American composers including Damien Sneed and Brandon Spencer.

February 25, from 7.30pm; The Red Theatre, The Arts Centre at NYU Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Mahmoud El Tohamy, March 14

The Egyptian devotional singer will perform a Ramadan show featuring a range of stirring prayers and poems from Islam’s Sufi tradition.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the words or the significance of the pieces, as El Tohamy’s aim has always been to move audiences.

March 14, from 9.30pm, Louvre Abu Dhabi

China National Symphony Orchestra, December 8

The Abu Dhabi Festival concludes with the Middle Eastern debut of the China National Symphony Orchestra.

Founded in 1966, it is the country’s premier classical music institution. It has performed throughout China as well as Spain, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Expect a programme of western classical music and works by Chinese composers.

December 8, from 8pm; Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental

More information and ticket details are available at abudhabifestival.ae

Updated: November 23, 2023, 6:23 AM