Media Centre

Press release

Festival is overwhelming success with 26,000 people enjoying over 90 events. World famous performers complemented by grassroots education and community programs. Festival has become global platform where leading cultural figureheads interact through debate and forge new partnerships.

19th Apr 2010

Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 leaves cultural legacy to inspire capital all year round

The Abu Dhabi Festival 2010, organised by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF), has come to a close following a three-week whirlwind tour through many cultural genres. There were over 90 events spanning opera, classical, jazz, Arabic and popular operatic music, the visual arts, puppetry, drama and storytelling among others. Held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the festival attracted over 26,000 people attending events across the UAE.  

While some of the world’s leading performers delighted audiences, education program events were attended by 7,000 people and involved schools, universities and the general public who gained insights from leading musicians and artists.  A grassroots community program reaching all seven Emirates with 3,000 people attending a wide range of events which celebrated the love of the arts in the UAE. 

Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 was a global platform where leading cultural figureheads interacted through debate and forged new partnerships. ADMAF introduced the first ever Festival Debate series which explored themes such as the impact of festivals on host cities, the future of opera and Emirati art. ADMAF also used the Festival to forge new and important partnerships for future cultural development by signing two significant Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with leading international organizations.

ADMAF signed an MOU with the renowned Queen Elizabeth College of Music (La Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth - CMRE) in Belgium. Founded in 1929, CMRE aims to promote and develop musical talent among young musicians which it does through collaborative agreements with cultural institutions in Belgium and abroad.  Under the MOU, ADMAF will collaborate with CMRE on productions by its opera students and laureate prize-winning musicians and will also explore co-productions and scholastic support for promising young musicians from the Middle East . 

Another significant agreement was signed with Fondazione Arena di Verona, a non-profit-making Italian organization based in the historic amphitheatre of Verona, Italy, which is principally devoted to the development of musical and cultural activity and musical education. ADMAF and Fondazione Arena di Verona will be working together to develop the understanding and appreciation of classical music and opera in the UAE, to explore co-productions and to establish a student exchange program.

H.E. Hoda al Khamis Kanoo comments:

“The Festival was a global symphony of cultures with over 90 performances spanning world-famous names to community events with unique collaborations and world premieres taking centre stage. Importantly, the Festival is leaving a lasting legacy in enhancing the cultural appreciation, education and participation in Abu Dhabi.

“We reflect the determination of Abu Dhabi to take the lead in cultural understanding by using the Festival as a platform for debate and partnership. The introduction of the Festival Debates was an important move and the international partnerships developed through agreements with leading international cultural bodies will help us to enhance cultural activity and education in Abu Dhabi and position the UAE capital as a major destination for cultural enlightenment.”


Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 – program highlights

Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 kicked off with a full house enjoying the Opening Gala celebrating the Bicentennial of Chopin’s birth, a key theme of this year’s festival.  The National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra was directed by Grammy-Award-winning and acclaimed 20th-century composer, Krzysztof Penderecki himself, who made his Middle East debut alongside piano virtuoso, Krzysztof Jablonski.  

Later in the Festival the recital by 21-year old Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujji proved to be one of the most captivating piano performances ever staged in Abu Dhabi.  The performance  spanned more than two hours where the 21-year old prodigy treated the audience to a repertoire dominated by a selection of Chopin pieces.

The Puccini Festival Opera's acclaimed La Bohème became the Festival’s first ever full-scale operatic production.  In the nationwide premiere of this much-loved opera by Giacomo Puccini, a host of international stars took to the stage, including soprano Ana María Martínez as Mimi and soprano Ana James as Musetta, along with tenor Luciano Ganci as Rodolfo.

The “Queen of Qanun” Hasmik Leyloyan’s concert 'Qanun Crossroads' enchanted the audience with a performance on one of the Middle East’s most treasured instruments.  Leyloyan gave an emotional performance spanning oriental Hijaz to occidental Paganini accompanied by the Camertone Ensemble to blend chamber music with the distinctive sounds of the Qanun.

The Festival welcomed the world famous operatic pop quartet, Il Divo, for a large-scale outdoor concert organised by Flash Entertainment in the grounds of Emirates Palace.

Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 played host to yet another cultural first with a live, high-definition screening of ‘Hamlet’ - the opera by Ambroise Thomas. Live from New York City, The Metropolitan Opera’s new production drew an audience of UAE opera fans at Emirates Palace who became part of a global audience from Australia to Uruguay.

In a world premiere, the oud master Naseer Shamma, with the Egyptian Philharmonic Society Orchestra and renowned composer and conductor Ahmed El Saedi, performed a unique interpretation of one of the most challenging pieces of music of all time – Paganini’s Caprice No.24. The piece was part of Oud Horizons: Concert for Humanity, which also incorporated pieces by Joaquin Rodrigo, Antonio Vivaldi and Naseer Shamma himself.

One of the greatest living jazz musicians in the world, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, made his Middle East debut during the Festival. Wynton Marsalis has been hailed by critics worldwide as the outstanding trumpet player of his generation and the Abu Dhabi audience were treated to the power of his unique musical vision. The delighted audience were treated to an unexpected collaboration of eastern and western styles, when Naseer Shamma made a surprise appearance on-stage to play Marsalis’ Majesty of the Blues with the jazz great. 

The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) closed Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 with two superb concerts featuring world-class composers and soloists. For the first performance, the LSO conductor Kristjan Järvi led the Orchestra's rousing performance of symphonic dances from Leonard Bernstein and Sergei Rachmaninov, as well as a gorgeous rendition of George Gershwin's unique Rhapsody in Blue by pianist Wayne Marshall.  The second performance featured eminent English conductor Sir Colin Davis, celebrating a 50-year association with the orchestra, and one of the rising stars of the international music scene, violinist Arabella Steinbacher. 

A stunning visual arts exhibition of the highest caliber was open throughout the Festival. The Middle East Modern Masters exhibition in the auditorium foyer of the Emirates Palace saw a joint collection of works by two of the greatest masters of contemporary Middle Eastern art - sculptors Parviz Tanavoli and Adam Henein. 

As a highlight of the education program, the Emirates Palace Auditorium became host to Children’s Day. Daytime performances saw students from schools right across Abu Dhabi perform musical pieces of their choice. The evening saw young musicians take to the stage at Emirates Palace, where many famous musicians had gone before them, to perform the first public outing of original work. . The compositions were created during workshops at the British School Al Khubairat led by renowned cellist, Matthew Barley, who returned to the festival for the third year, with his improvisation group Between The Notes.

Other highlights of the education program included The Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s performances of ‘The Sound of Music’, Birmingham Stage Company performances and workshops for Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’, Live Music Now! workshops with students at Abu Dhabi special needs centres, as well as pre-concert talks for main festival program.  

Away from the main stage, over 35 community events took place across all seven emirates offering performances as diverse as Hakawati, reviving the art of storytelling, film screening, photo-competition, concert-symposium, drumming and supporting civil society organizations.  Inspired by the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan the community program is the living manifestation of the central Festival theme of  “Bilad Al Khayr” or “The Land of Blessings”. Embracing the values of respect and unity, the community program endeavour to empower people and communities to enhance their creativity and embed their innovation in the world of arts.