Some weeks, Cultural Calendar can afford to lounge around, dropping a few casual recommendations in between drawled anecdotes and mouthfuls of baklava. At other times it sounds like a harassed rail announcer on a mainline stopping service, and this is one of those weeks. It is occasionally claimed that scientists have identified the most depressing day of the year or the luckiest birth date or some such nonsense. Cultural Calendar thinks it might just have stumbled on the hardest week to be Cultural Calendar, which is to say, one of the most stimulating weeks to immerse oneself in the arts in the UAE. There is too much happening to do justice, or what passes for justice in this column, to any of it. Good news for you; awkward for me. What can you do?
The Abu Dhabi Festival, which opened last night with a gala celebration of Chopin's bicentennial by Krzysztof Jablonski and the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, continues throughout this week. Its diverting programme includes an exhibition of artworks by Parviz Tanavoli and Adam Henein, two of the Middle East's most significant sculptors. On Tuesday and Wednesday, there's one of the strangest performances to hit these shores, a puppet version of The Sound of Music by the Salzburg Marionette Theatre. And on Thursday there's a performance of La Bohème by the Puccini Festival Opera, dropped nonchalantly in the middle of the Emirates Palace, complete with Ana Maria Martinez as Mimi. Then on Sunday there's more Chopin from the 21-year-old piano virtuoso Nobuyuki Tsujii.
While all this is going on, the Birmingham Stage Company perform a touring production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. It's in the Abu Dhabi Theatre today and tomorrow, at Ductac Tuesday and Wednesday, and at the UAE University in Al Ain on Thursday. This, however, is not the extent of the Abu Dhabi Festival's activities. Check www.abudhabifestival.ae for more details. For now, this train is leaving the station.
Outside the capital, the headline event this week must be the Dubai World Cup. Entertainment will be provided by Elton John and Carlos Santana, each of whom has sold a few records in his time, though probably not very often to the same people. Still, if you like your horses fast, your jams Latin and your ballads flaming, there is only one place to be on Saturday. What, though, if you like your rock heavy and vaguely paleolithic? What if you want Lord of the Rings-inspired songs called things such as Tears of the Wizard? Then on Thursday, Monsters of Rock, headlined by the long-running Indian band Parikrama, is the concert for you.
Alternatively, the Shelter in Al Quoz is hosting an evening of live hip-hop, rap battles and graffiti led by the Dubai-based MC Jibberish. The event is billed as a benefit for Haitian earthquake victims but might equally be interpreted as a hearts-and-minds drive for Dubai's hip-hop community, which has been bubbling away in comparative obscurity for a while now. At a minimum, any claims to "run this town" should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Finally, there's a new show by the fine Iranian artist Sara Rahbar at Carbon 12. Whatever We Had to Lose We Lost and In a Moonless Sky We Marched appears to resume the artist's interests in satirically Persianised versions of the American flag and in photographic studies of ceremonial dress. Worth a visit.
Abu Dhabi Festival: Until April 8, Emirates Palace and other venues, Abu Dhabi. Visit www.abudhabifestival.ae. Carlos Santana and Elton John: Saturday, Dubai World Cup at Meydan, Dubai. Monsters of Rock: Thursday, Dubai Majestic Hotel, Dubai. Hip-hop for Haiti: Thursday, the Shelter, Al Quoz, Dubai. Sara Rahbar: Thursday, Carbon 12, Al Quoz, Dubai.