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Abu Dhabi Festival To Run From 11th March to 6th April 2012

ADF Launch Press Conference Panelists Abdulaziz Al Musallam, Hassan Massoudy,  Mrs. Kanoo, Lord Hall of Birkenhead and Amina Taher. Credit Abu Dhabi Festival 16th Jan 2012

Abu Dhabi Festival Announces Stellar Line-up Of International Talent For 2012

Celebrating its ninth edition in 2012, the Abu Dhabi Festival has confirmed its place amongst the UAE’s cultural calendar highlights by announcing a stellar programme of world-leading artistic talent. The Festival, 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, continues its commitment to showcasing the very best of the arts, with a schedule combining classical music, theatre and performing arts, jazz, ballet and fine arts.

The Abu Dhabi Festival is organised by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF). Speaking at the launch of the Festival’s latest edition, Her Excellency Mrs. Hoda I. Al Khamis Kanoo, Founder and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival, said: “The Abu Dhabi Festival 2012, under the theme of ‘Connecting Cultures’, marks the ninth edition. With more than 18 participating countries represented in the programme, the Festival this year consolidates its determination to realise the vision of the UAE; that being bilateral relations and cultural understanding that embraces the world.”

Through the theme ‘Connecting Cultures’ the Abu Dhabi Festival acknowledges the important role artistic expression plays in building partnerships of mutual understanding between people from diverse cultures and traditions. Central to the theme is cultural partnerships. Over the last nine years, the Festival has built partnerships across the seven Emirates and globally distinguished arts and cultural organisations in order to achieve today’s position of strength.

The Country of Honour this year will be the United Kingdom, a country with whom the Festival has established a number of notable strategic partnerships, including the Royal Opera House, Manchester International Festival and Edinburgh International Festival. Three outstanding collaborations and seven events making their Arab world debut will represent the country during the Festival.

“What makes this edition of the Abu Dhabi Festival particularly special is that it will not only enable us to look forward to a future filled with unlimited creative possibilities, but it will also help us look back and learn from the lessons of the past. This March, we shall pay homage to the glory days of Arab cultural expression that stretched from Andalucía to China. The Golden Age left a legacy of scientific and artistic achievement, exceeding that of any other civilization,” added H.E. Mrs Kanoo.

H.E. Mrs Kanoo was joined at the Festival launch by distinguished guests including: Lord Hall of Birkenhead, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House; celebrated visual artist Hassan Massoudy; Abdul Aziz Musallam Director of Heritage & Cultural Affairs Department of Culture & Information in Sharjah and Amina Taher Manager, Mubadala Group Communications.

Inspiring a generation of cultural leaders: Educational endeavour

The Abu Dhabi Festival is committed to providing support and inspiration through its many education initiatives that run parallel to, and beyond, the Festival. With a firm belief in the transformative power of the arts and music in assisting the intellectual nourishment and development of children and young people, the Festival aims to bring the arts to more schools and colleges than ever before.

After the success of ‘Macbeth’ in 2011, the acclaimed UK theatre company, Globe Education at Shakespeare’s Globe, returns to Abu Dhabi with another thrilling play and workshops. ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ will bring Shakespeare to life and enhance the English language and literature curriculum.

Building on the partnership between Abu Dhabi Festival and Manchester International Festival (MIF), the education programme will feature MIF’s ‘Music Boxes’. Events will include the Scottish Opera’s BabyO which offers babies an unforgettable musical experience by seamlessly combining recorded music with live singing. Jake Rodrigues’s event will encourage song and dance in the innovative ’Ukulele World’.

The BBC Philharmonic Maestro will offer a unique interactive musical experience for children while the sensory show, Oily Cart - ‘Drum’, is specifically designed for babies and toddlers.


As a yearly highlight of the Festival, Young Artists’ Day returns to nurture the competitive spirit and young talent of Abu Dhabi’s future generation of artists. This year aspiring musicians will perform alongside the renowned Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble ACJW.

Topical issues in culture and the arts will be discussed through ‘Riwaq Al Fikr/The Festival Debates’. A total of five panel discussions will bring together a series of leading experts to explore diverse subjects including cultural diplomacy, arts education and the legacy of Arab heritage. Riwaq Al Fikr will also commemorate and explore the legacy of the late Dr. Walid Gholmieh, the eminent composer and conductor. In recognition of his lifetimes work and tireless support of ADMAF and its initiatives over the last 15 years, in addition to his contribution to the cultural and artistic landscape of the region, Dr. Gholmieh will receive the 2012 Abu Dhabi Festival Award.

Giving audiences the opportunity to explore the visual arts, the Festival is delighted to welcome renowned Iraqi artist and calligrapher Hassan Massoudy, whose exhibition ‘Gestures of Light’ will feature in ‘Ways of Seeing’. Through the programme of workshops, artist-led walk-throughs and lectures visitors will be able to explore Massoudy’s unique talent and discuss the themes and inspiration behind his work. The exhibition will be held at the Ghaf Gallery from March 19 – April 15.

Celebrating the spirit of ‘Bilad Al Khayr’: Community commitment

The Abu Dhabi Festival Community programme seeks to embed the arts and music in communities across the seven Emirates, by inspiring those who wish to learn and experience a diversity of cultural heritage. By upholding the legacy of ‘Bilad Al Khayr (Land of Blessings)’ by the late Sheikh Zayed, the Festival plays an important role in re-awakening traditional art forms, including music and poetry, and bringing these and many other cultural assets to those who may most benefit.

Amongst the community programme highlights are the ever-popular Hakawati - Stories of Al Tanboori. Building on the success of 2009 and 2010 Festivals, the ninth edition presents a tour of the Western Region and Northern Emirates by Ahmed Yousef and his Sharjah-based traditional Hakawati troupe of actors, bringing to life the mythical characters of Arabia through puppetry, shadow puppets, and wonder box.


A specially adapted production of Richard Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’ will feature emerging Emirati acting talent from the Resuscitation Theatre. The cast of this comedy of manners includes Fatima Al Taei and Saeed Al-Dhaheri, with Faisal Al Zaabi as Assistant Director.

For the third consecutive year, the Abu Dhabi Festival presents the Emirates Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Premiere Music College of Prague Youth Symphony Orchestra in the 8th Emirates International Peace Music Festival as they tour the UAE to showcase new talent. 

There will also be a range of music and artistic workshops in orphanages, hospitals and special needs centres across the UAE aimed at empowering, and encouraging people to explore the arts.


Main programme highlights

The Festival’s main programme will blend musical cultures and histories. From jazz to classical, the music of the sitar to the rhythm and movement of contemporary dance, and  the precision of ballet to opera. The programme crosses cultures and explores the past, present and future of artistic expression.

Highlights of the main programme include:

Anoushka Shankar will be performing music from her latest album and world tour ‘Traveller’ offering an evening of Raga-Flamenco music featuring pieces from the world-renowned artists’ first CD on Deutsche Grammophon. Anoushka Shankar is one of the world’s greatest sitar players and the only artist to be trained exclusively by her father, the legendary Ravi Shankar.

Widely regarded as one of the world’s most dynamic violin virtuosos, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Maxim Vengerov will perform a spectacular repertoire of works by the great composers accompanied by Russia’s oldest symphonic ensemble and conducted by the award-winning  Yuri Temirkanov in ‘Resplendent Russia’. This is an Abu Dhabi Festival Commission and Arab World premiere.


Nasser Shamma & The Global Music Ensemble’ will perform a repertoire specially commissioned for the Abu Dhabi Festival. Nasser Shamma, the oud master of Iraq, will team up with a hugely talented ensemble of musicians from Italy, Spain, USA, Greece and Colombia for an audacious journey that testifies to the unifying power of music.


Collaborating with The Met in HD once again, the Festival will host the gargantuan screening of Wagner’s Ring Cycle over two weekends, starring Bryn Terfel (Wotan), Deborah Voigt (Brünnhilde) and Jonas Kaufmann (Siegmund). Conducted by James Levine and directed by Robert Lepage, the four-day marathon comprises all four of The Met’s 2010 and 2011 productions of Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung.


Building on the successful introduction of contemporary dance to the Festival last year,SUTRA. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui / Antony Gormley / Szymon Brzóska with Monks from the Shaolin Temple’ is a stunning blend of Kung Fu, Tai Chi and contemporary dance brought to Abu Dhabi through the illustrious Sadler’s Wells theatre in London.


Ballet is always a popular addition to the Festival. In 2012, Dresden’s famous Semperoper Ballet, teams up with NDR Radiophilharmonie (Hannover) to  perform ‘La Bayadère’. Originally staged by the choreographer Marius Petipa, Aaron S. Watkins' version for Semperoper Ballet, for which conductor David Coleman rearranged the music of Ludwig Minkus, is presented in just two acts. Set in ancient India, this typically romantic story tells of love, jealousy, intrigue, murder and revenge between Nikiya, a temple dancer; her rival, the Rajah’s daughter Hamsatti; and Solor, a noble warrior passionately loved by both women. This exotic tale features ‘The Kingdom of the Shades’ - one of ballet’s most famous scenes.

Opera returns with the Royal Opera House’s production of ‘Beloved Friend’. Telling the story of Pyctr Il’yich Tchaikovsky and his patron Nadezdha von Meck’. This enchanting production written by acclaimed director and screenwriter Sir Ronald Harwood, is set to the music of Tchaikovsky and includes dancers from the Royal Ballet and is an Arab World Premiere.

Jazz will make its popular return to the Festival with the nine-time GRAMMY award winning singer, songwriter and performer Natalie Cole. Daughter of the jazz legend Nat King Cole, will make her Middle East debut in Abu Dhabi in an evening entitled ‘Natalie Cole in Concert’.

Fadel Shaker in Concert – A Night of Legends, will feature a selection of the songs and music closest to the heart and values of Lebanese legend Shaker. The programme will include the well-crafted, robust sound of Umm Kalthoum, the sweet delicacy of Najat, the immortal thrill of Lebanese chanteuse Sabah and the mostalgia of Syrian musician and composer Farid Al Attrash.

Bayt Al Farabi

A new initiative for 2012, ‘Bayt Al Farabi’ will pay tribute to Abu Nasr Muhammad Al Farabi. A specially developed programme aimed at exploring the legacy of this teacher, composer and scientist. Amongst the talent to be showcased are Anwar Abudragh and the Maqamat Ensemble, Goksel Bagatir, Faisal Al Sari. Discussing the significance of this initiative, H.E. Mrs. Kanoo said: “Their creations, concerts and compositions reflect the Festival’s never-ending thirst for knowledge, so eloquently reflected in the region’s poetry and literature.”

Ticket sales

Tickets for the Festival go on sale to the public tomorrow, Tuesday 17th January 2012. Purchase points include:  and through the Abu Dhabi Festival ticket hotline number 800-4669 (local)/ +971 4 444 3459. An ‘Early Bird’ offer allows Festival-goers to avail a 25% discount on tickets booked before January 31st 2012. Tickets for Beloved Friend will go on sale 1 February 2012.


Early Bird Offer (17th January – 31st of January)

1st  February onwards

Diamond (stalls)

372 AED

495 AED

Pearl (upper stall/balcony)

225 AED

295 AED

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

38 AED

50 AED

Bayt Al Farabi

38 AED

50 AED

The Met in HD

90 AED

120 AED


Students can also take advantage of a 50% discount upon presentation of a valid Student ID card at the Abu Dhabi Festival Box Office at Emirates Palace.

Part of the Abu Dhabi Festival 2012 ticket sale proceeds will go to The Brave Heart Fund and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).