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Month-long celebration of arts and culture to be held from 1 – 31 March 2017 as the 14th Festival edition heralds the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as ‘Country of Honour’ Diverse education and community series to run throughout

ADF17 Press Conference 3rd Nov 2016

Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation announces headline acts as the 2017 Abu Dhabi Festival focuses on ‘Culture & Tolerance’

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation, the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) today announced an exceptional headline series of concerts, performances and exhibitions as part of Abu Dhabi Festival 2017 (ADF17). Continuing its legacy of presenting world-renowned stars in the UAE, the Festival returns in 2017 with its 14th edition featuring an illustrious mix of artists, genres and nationalities as it celebrates the principles of ‘Culture and Tolerance’ set by the late Sheikh Zayed, Founding Father of the UAE.

With a headline programme that includes performances by the eminent Saudi singer, Mohamed Abdo; US jazz icon, Wynton Marsalis; popular Portuguese fado singer, Mariza; and the multi-national Silk Road Ensemble with Chinese-American cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, ADMAF continues its 21-year-long track record in building bridges of understanding through the power of cultural diplomacy.

In line with this legacy, ADF heralds the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the 2017 ‘Country of Honour’ and shall recognise the outstanding lifetime contributions to arts and culture of the acclaimed Saudi intellectual and poet, HRH Prince Badr Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, and the iconic Saudi singer Mohamed Abdo through the Abu Dhabi Festival Awards. Other esteemed recipients of the highly prized Abu Dhabi Festival Award will be Dr. Ghassan Salamé, Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble.

Speaking at the ADF17 press launch held at the Emirates Palace, just one of the venues of Abu Dhabi Festival’s annual headline programme, H.E. Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival, said: “Culture & Tolerance are two notions that seem to go hand-in-hand so well, that one might wonder if it even is relevant to offer them as a theme. However, if one looks at the world surrounding us, this bond between Culture & Tolerance needs to be reaffirmed.

The Abu Dhabi Festival has always been an organisation that lives in close contact with the world. We aim for a festival that is not an ivory tower or a bubble but one that is in dialogue with the world. In its showcase of leading artists from the region and the world, we have chosen this year to concentrate on people whose work and concerns are closely linked to the notion of Tolerance.

It is fitting for us to have Saudi Arabia as Country of Honour this year, as what was to become today’s Saudi Arabia was an important hub in the Silk Road. It is our privilege at ADMAF to highlight the artists and luminaries of Saudi Arabia who have taken their culture to such heights while embracing dialogue with the rest of the world. In this context, one must underline the extraordinary achievements in the field of poetry of His Royal Highness Prince Badr Abdul Mohsen Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

Yet, the Abu Dhabi Festival should not only be defined by its world-class exhibitions and performances but also by its legacy of opportunity – facilitating unique encounters and enabling new doors to open.”

Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of State for Tolerance and President of Zayed University, affirmed that a special and strong bond exists between culture and tolerance, saying: “Culture is a vehicle that enables people and societies to better understand each other and show more tolerance to each other, while countering the influences that lead to fear and exclusion. Tolerance is the freely given acceptance of difference that are seen as positive and valued.”

Her Excellency also praised the major achievements accomplished by ADMAF over the past 20 years, which all contribute to Abu Dhabi’s vision as a global destination of cultural enlightenment. She said: “ADMAF has been instrumental in building a sense of community – young and old, local and international – that values, respects and celebrates cultural diversity.”

In recognition of the partnership between ADMAF and the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General, EAD commented that “the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation are committed to work together to not only enjoy, but nurture the nexus of culture, art and the environment.  One way that this will manifest itself is in the environmental theme of ‘The Art of Nature” exhibition to be held in Abu Dhabi in 2017 alongside the Festival.  The exhibition will have a theme based upon the wonderful ecosystems of the UAE – the desert, sabkhas, marine and mountain environments, but also some of the iconic species of the UAE:  Our terrestrial species such as the Arabian Oryx and marine species such as the elusive Dugong, Hawksbill turtle, corals and mangrove forests.”

ADF17 will begin on 1 March with the launch of the Festival’s community and education programme – a calendar of free events, exhibitions, performances and workshops for people of all ages to enjoy. Highlights during the 2017 edition include the return of ‘Silent Voices’ under the patronage of HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak; ‘Festival in the Park’ under the patronage of HH Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan; ‘The Ministry of Science’, ‘Riwaq Al Fikr / The Festival Debates’, ‘Festival in Focus’ and ‘Back to School’ alongside, ‘The Wonders of Reading’ and ‘Arts for Autism’, among many others.

March will also see the opening of the Abu Dhabi Festival Exhibition (21 March–21 April), marking the 20th anniversary of partner the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD). Located at Umm Al Emarat Park, the exhibition will explore the richness and diversity of the UAE’s natural environments through commissioned and loaned works by a dynamic array of Emirati visual artists.

Headline Programme: 

Mohamed Abdo: One Moonlit Evening (14 March): The "Artist of Arabs" will grace the Emirates Palace Auditorium for one night only, delighting the audience with his towering vocals. (Abu Dhabi Festival Debut)

Tomatito – Soy Flamenco (23 March) presents a fusion of ‘nouveau flamenco’, jazz, gypsy, Brazilian and even Turkish influences. Five-time GRAMMY-award-winning Tomatito will show his mastery of this passionate Spanish art form that melds dance, song, guitar and percussion at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. (Abu Dhabi Festival Debut)

China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra (24 & 25 March): make their Arab world debut with two sublime concerts conducted by Maestro Yi Zhang. The first evening sees Tchaikovsky’s Slavonic March, Dvorák Symphony No. 9 in E Minor and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 performed by guest soloist Haochen Zhang. While the second evening features Bach’s Chaconne in D Minor, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite and The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto by He Zhanhao & Chen Gang by the acclaimed Siqing Lü. (Arab World Debut)

Wynton Marsalis in Concert (27 March) returns to the Abu Dhabi Festival in association with Jazz at Lincoln Center after his sold-out 2010 concert. Joined by his sensational Ensemble and a protégé from the famed Juilliard School, the nine-time GRAMMY-award-winning genius will entrance the audience with his boundless talent and legendary jazz rifts.

Mariza in Concert (29 March) takes the Festival audience to the shores of Portugal and into the remarkable world of Fado. One of the most widely acclaimed stars of the World Music circuit, the phenomenon of Mariza has reached the four corners of the globe. Evocative, emotional, and always original, her rich and vibrant voice will explore the genre’s deep traditions. (UAE Debut)

The Silk Road Ensemble & Yo-Yo Ma (31 March) draws the ADF17 headline programme to a close with a concert defined not by genre but by its ability to mix and melt musical traditions. Inspired by the historical Silk Road, Chinese-American cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, and a host of gifted musicians will show just how the power of music can change the world. (Abu Dhabi Festival Debut)

The Festival Recital Series returns for a third consecutive year with two intimate concerts by the virtuosos of tomorrow. Hosted by The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, the series begins with the Arab world debut of the Spanish classical pianist, Juan Pérez Floristán (18 March), the 2015 winner of the highly competitive Paloma O’Shea Santander International Piano Competition. Hot on his heels, Lebanese-American pianist, Tarek Yamani (19 March) presents the world premiere of an Abu Dhabi Festival commission, ‘Portraits in Khaleeji Rhythms and Jazz’, which ingeniously bridges the boundaries between two eclectic cultures and musical heritages. The recital will also mark the release of an accompanying album and educational resources.

Beyond the live performances, the Abu Dhabi Festival Composers Platform, which supports music by practitioners of Arab origin, is pleased to support three outstanding projects:

- Mohammed Fairouz Concerto at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi: commissioned by The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi Festival, the celebrated Emirati-American composer Mohammed Fairouz debuts his latest concerto on 2 February 2017 performed by the legendary US ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars (World Premiere)

- Sheikh Salama Hijazi CD box-set: in partnership with the Foundation for Arab Music Archiving and Research (AMAR), this major album exploring the work of the Arabic musical theatre pioneer will be released in March 2017.

- Portraits in Khaleeji Rhythms and Jazz (PIKRAJ) Album & Learning Resources: alongside the world premiere of PIKRAJ during the ADF17 Recital Series, Lebanese-American pianist, Tarek Yamani (19 March) releases an accompanying album and educational resources.

And just as the Abu Dhabi Festival brings the world to Abu Dhabi, so too does it take the UAE capital to the world. Upholding the spirit of cultural diplomacy, dialogue and exchange, the Abu Dhabi Festival is enabling the following international initiatives:

Germany: The Barenboim-Said Akademie – Gifted Palestinian cellist Faris Amin is the first recipient of The Abu Dhabi Festival Scholarship at The Barenboim-Said Akademie, one of the greatest and latest music conservatories in the world, under the direction of Maestro Daniel Barenboim. This is the first step in a long-term partnership with the Barenboim-Said Foundation, which includes the Barenboim-Said Akademie and its concert hall the Pierre Boulez Saal (destined to open in March 2017). This is the Akademie’s first collaboration with a country from the Arab world.

Germany: ‘Salam to Syria’, Villa Gutmann Damascus Room – Abu Dhabi Festival is proud to support the inaugural recital in this remarkable space by the leading German-Syrian violinist Ashraf Kateb and acclaimed pianist Hamsa Al Wadi Juris. Hidden for 50 years, the Damascus Room at Villa Gutmann in Potsdam, was rediscovered and today is one of the largest rooms of Syrian traditional interior architecture in Europe. Held on 31 October, the recital paid homage to the great composers of the Arab world including Syria’s very own Dia Succari, Solhi Al Wadi and Zaid Jabri.

Germany & Belgium: The Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra – The Abu Dhabi Festival will be the first Arab organisation to support this outstanding ensemble of Syrian refugees, expatriates and students residing across Europe through large-scale concerts in Belgium and Germany during 2017.

International Tour ‘Kalila wa Dimna’ - commissioned by Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and the Academie of Aix Festival, co-produced with Opera de Lille and Opera de Dijon, and supported by the Abu Dhabi Festival, the acclaimed opera by Moneim Adwan with libretto by Fady Jomar and Catherine Verlaguet, will tour France, the Middle East and Central America in 2017.

United Kingdom: Shubbak Festival of Contemporary Arab Culture – The Abu Dhabi Festival continues its partnership with London’s greatest celebration of Arab artistic expression with a new collaboration in the summer of 2017.


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Abu Dhabi Festival 2017 Ticket Information

Tickets will be available to purchase at:   

Early Bird Discount Thursday 3 November 2016 to Saturday 3 December 2016 - all ticket prices are reduced by 25% during this period.

Students receive 50% discount (ID required).

Performance: Emirates Palace

Ticket Prices

Mohamed Abdo: One Moonlit Evening

Diamond (AED 350); Pearl (AED 250); Balcony (AED125)

China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra

Diamond (AED 350); Pearl (AED 250); Balcony (AED125)

Wynton Marsalis in Concert

Diamond (AED 350); Pearl (AED 250); Balcony (AED125)

The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma

Diamond (AED 350); Pearl (AED 250); Balcony (AED125)

Mariza in Concert

All seats (AED 250); Students receive 50% discount (ID required).