Abu Dhabi Festival announces line-up of major performances for 2019

The Abu Dhabi Festival returns with an expansive array of concerts featuring opera, ballet, orchestral performances and an intimate jazz gig

Sara Baras. Photo by Sofia Wittert
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Abu Dhabi's premiere arts and culture event returns for its 16th edition with an expansive programme.

The Abu Dhabi Festival, to be held between March 7 and March 30 2019, will feature performances ranging from lavish opera and ballet productions to an intimate jazz concert. Much of the festival will be held at Emirates Palace.

With the Republic of Korea as the festival's guest of honour, the country will showcase its fine arts talents with a performance from two of its most esteemed institutions. The Korean National Ballet will mark their debut Middle Eastern appearance on March 7 with their staging of Giselle; while the Korean Symphony Orchestra will appear the following night with acclaimed soloist and pianist Jae-Hyuck Cho.

After wowing audiences with an intimate recital performance at Dubai Opera last year, Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel returns to the UAE on March 15 to star in Puccini's much loved opera Tosca.

This year, the festival will take place under the theme of "culture of determination". The event’s artistic director Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo says it is in tribute to the Special Olympics World Games, which will also run in Abu Dhabi during the festival, from March 14 to 21.

"Culture defines humanity and when it was decided that Abu Dhabi was to host the Special Olympics World Games in 2019, during the same month that the Abu Dhabi Festival was to take place, the connection was clear," Alkhamis-Kanoo told The National. "At the Abu Dhabi Festival we feel a strong affinity with them, in so much as we have also had to face and overcome challenges of our own, to build trust with the public, the government, and internationally, to enable us to get to where we are today."

With over 500 artists from 17 countries, Alkhamis-Kanoo says the Abu Dhabi Festival’s strength is in celebrating cultural diversity: “Every year we challenge ourselves to bring an incredibly varied and diverse range of performances that crosses genres, cultures and disciplines.”

Tickets for all shows are available now from the festival website www.abudhabifestival.ae

In addition to the major concerts, more announcements will be made soon including the Festival in the Park concert series held at Umm Al Emarat Park. There will also be art, film and theatre workshops and the Riwaq Al Fikr cultural discussion series.

For now, here is the Abu Dhabi Festival major performance programme:

Joyce DiDonato: In War & Peace: Harmony Through Music (pre-festival performance)

Named after her latest album In War and Peace, the celebrated US mezzo soprano DiDonato will feature compositions created in times of both joy and turmoil, and looks at how composers like Handel and Purcell reflected both serenity and conflict in their work. She will be supported by one of the world's most sought after baroque orchestras: formed in 2012, Il Pomo d'Oro Orchestra has been nominated for this year's prestigious Gramophone Orchestra of the Year Award.

When: Thursday, January 24

Where: Emirates Palace Auditorium

Korean National Ballet – Giselle

Choreographed for the company by the former celebrated French dancer Patrice Bart, the program will serve as a fine introduction to the Korean National Ballet. Founded in 1962, the company grew to a troupe of 90 dancers that have gone  on to spread their love of dance to neighbouring countries in Asia, as well as conducting high profile tours of the US, Europe and Russia.

When: Thursday, March 7

Where: Emirates Palace Auditorium

Classics at the Festival: Korean Symphony Orchestra

The Abu Dhabi Festival always features a lush orchestral performance by esteemed ensembles; for the latest edition it will be the players from the Korean Symphony Orchestra taking their seats at the Emirates  Palace stage. Under the baton of the country's popular conductor Chi-Yong Chung, and featuring pianist Jae-Hyuck Cho, the program will feature a trio of works: Franz List's Piano Concerto No.1 in E-flat Major and S.124, and Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No.8, Op.88.

When: Friday, March 8

Where: Emirates Palace Auditorium

Jazz at the Festival: Justin Kauflin

After a successful two-month residency at Q's Bar and Lounge in Dubai last year, the young American pianist and jazz prodigy will make his Abu Dhabi debut as part of the festival. Mentored by jazz great and Abu Dhabi Festival Award winner Quincy Jones, Kauflin will take the stage at NYU Abu Dhabi's Arts Centre where he will showcase his latest album Coming Home. To know more about Kauflin, dig deep into your Netflix catalogue and unearth the gem that is the music documentary Keep On Keepin' On.

When: Monday, March 11

Where: The Arts Centre, NYU Abu Dhabi

Tosca: The Art of Sir Bryn Terfel with Sinfonia Cymru

Abu Dhabi Festival audiences know all about Terfel and his awe-inspiring cavernous voice,; the Welsh singer performed as part of the 2013 edition with a sold out concert. This time around, he returns to the Emirates Palace Auditorium for a semi-stage production of Puccini's Tosca. With a full cast of vocal soloists and choir, Terfel will take on the role of Scarpia in this classic tale of love, intrigue and murder. Providing the score is Sinfonia Cymru, a young chamber orchestra based in Wales.

When: Friday, March 15

Where: Emirates Palace Auditorium

Sombras by Sara Baras

After dazzling UAE audiences with her Dubai Opera performance in 2016 – where The National described Baras as "an instrument, transmitting emotions, joy and heartbreak," – one of Spain's leading flamenco dancers will bring her latest show to the Abu Dhabi Festival. With Sombras (Shadows), Baras celebrates her two-decade career with a range of flamenco dances, rhythms and cadences. She will be joined on stage with guest performer Jose Serrano, and six dancers, as well as a seven-piece flamenco band.

When: Thursday, March 21

Where: Emirates Palace Auditorium

The Paris Opera Ballet – Jewels

Ballet and fashion meet in this production by George Balanchine. With the late French choreographer's main inspiration being old Hollywood glamour, Jewels is inspired by the work of French jewellery designer Claude Arpels. With each of the three acts named after a different jewel – Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds – the ballet recalls the 19th century dances from the French Romantics to the grandeur of imperial Russia.

When: Friday and Saturday, March 29 and 30

Where: Emirates Palace Auditorium


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