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The world premiere of ‘Kalîla Wa Dimna’ at Festival Aix-en-Provence, France and ‘Star of the East: An Homage to Umm Kulthum’ at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington DC, USA, are supported by the Abu Dhabi Festival

Festival Commisisons 19th Jul 2016

Abu Dhabi Festival flies the cultural diplomacy flag with groundbreaking initiatives in France and the USA

Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation, the Abu Dhabi Festival supported two major cultural events in different continents this month.

In collaboration with leading global organisations, the Abu Dhabi Festival – organised by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) – enables the creation of cultural initiatives that bring countries together and enable societies to better understand each other. The latest cultural diplomacy endeavours by the Abu Dhabi Festival also seek to further strengthen Abu Dhabi’s position on the global cultural map.

In France, the world premiere run of the opera Kalîla Wa Dimna took place at Théâtre du Jeu de Paume during Festival Aix-en-Provence (1 -17 July 2016) and in the USA, Star of the East: An Homage to Umm Kulthum attracted a full house at the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington DC, on 10 July 2016. Both initiatives attracted international audiences to explore the rich cultural heritage of the Middle East, while highlighting the breadth and depth of creativity embedded in societies across the region.

Premiered at the renowned Festival Aix-en-Provence in France, Kalîla Wa Dimna is an opera in Arabic and French by Moneim Adwan (Palestine), and inspired by the book of the same name by Ibn Al Muqaffa. With the libretto co-written by Fady Jomar (Syria) and conducted by Zied Zouari (Tunisia), the opera will now embark on an international tour visiting France, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and Mexico until November 2017. For more information please visit the website here.

Kalîla Wa Dimna is the latest example of ADMAF’s ongoing collaboration with France, which was the Festival’s 2016 Country of Honour, and further highlights the strength of bilateral cultural relations and a shared spirit of creativity. The Festival featured headline performances on the Emirates Palace stage in April by Natalie Dessay and Laurent Naouri, Orchestre de Paris, as well as an orchestral concert of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince by Nick Lloyd Webber and James D Reid.

Also supported by the Abu Dhabi Festival, Star of the East: An Homage to Umm Kulthum, consisted of discussions and performances exploring the influence and impact of the iconic Egyptian singer-songwriter and ‘Star of the East’, Umm Kulthum. Part of the ‘Cultural Capital’ sessions at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington DC and in partnership with the Middle East Institute, the programme featured the Syrian Soprano Lubna Al Quntar accompanied by Issam Rafea and the Palestinian composer and singer Huda Asfour, among a host of leading academics and arts professionals.

Continuing its long legacy of international cultural cooperation, in 2016 alone, the Abu Dhabi Festival has co-commissioned and supported a total of six initiatives in four countries (USA, France, Lebanon, and Switzerland), namely: (USA) ‘City of Light: Ravel’s Mother Goose’, co-commissioned with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, Music & Artistic Director; (Lebanon) Babel Theatre’s ‘Baghdad Bath House’ European and North African tour; (France) ‘Naseer Shamma & The Global Music Ensemble’ concert at Olympia Theatre, Paris; (Switzerland) ‘Antumbra’ composed by Faisal Al Saari & Luzi von Wyl; (USA) ‘Star of the East: An Homage to Umm Kulthum’, co-presented by the Middle East Institute with the National Museum for Women in the Arts; and (France) ‘Kalila wa Dimna’ opera by Moneim Adwan, commissioned by Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and the Academie of Aix Festival.

Looking ahead to 2017, the Abu Dhabi Festival’s commission with the acclaimed Afro-Tarab jazz composer and musician Tarek Yamani entitled ‘Portraits in Khaleeji Rhythms and Jazz’ is expected to come to fruition. While in 2020, the Festival will present the world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz’s fifth symphony, which will explore the story of the UAE and the universality of its values.