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Press release

The Metropolitan Opera’s celebrated production comes to the UAE via high-definition satellite broadcast

28th Mar 2010

Audiences gather for Hamlet - Live from New York as part of Abu Dhabi Festival 2010

In an incredible feat of technology, Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 played host to yet another cultural first last night, 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.

The opera of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy was beamed to the audience via a live satellite link-up direct from New York, as part of the Met’s Live in HD program.  Those watching at Emirates Palace last night became part of a global audience, who watched the live broadcast in theatres, cinemas and private screenings around the world, from Australia to Uruguay.

Styled after the French 'grand opera' tradition prevalent in the 19th century - a narrative approach that presents the story in dramatic, bold gestures - Thomas's opera is being revived at the Met after just over a century. Last night, the appreciative audience was spellbound throughout the opera as it scrolled across the giant screen, beaming in live from almost 7000 miles away, perfectly epitomizing the Festival's vision of uniting art and cultures from around the world, honouring classic works and contemporary talent.

At the heart of the play is the tormented soul of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, navigating the surging ebb and flow of turmoil that besets him throughout a fateful series of events. Portraying the conflicted hero with compelling conviction was the outstanding baritone Simon Keenlyside, while soprano Marlis Petersen made the part of Ophelie her own, with a nuanced and sensitive performance.

The opera of Hamlet was an instant sensation when composer, Ambroise Thomas presented his radical treatment of the landmark Shakespeare play at the Paris Opéra in 1868, based on an adaptation by Alexandre Dumas and Paul Meurice.  The Met has revived this intriguing interpretation of the play as one of the highlights of its 2010 programme, produced by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser and conducted by Louis Langrée.  Alongside the characters of Hamlet and Ophelié are Jennifer Larmore as Gertrude, Toby Spence as Laërtes and James Morris as Claudius. 

H.E. Hoda al Khamis Kanoo, Founder and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival comments:

“The Met is one of the most highly-regarded cultural institutions in the world.  Although more than 125 years old, it is at the forefront of cultural innovation, and has been widely applauded for its efforts to bring opera to new audiences around the world through its Live in HD program.  This is a position with which the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation enthusiastically identifies, as we strive to bring performances from around the world to new audiences in the UAE.

The Abu Dhabi Festival 2010, organised by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) is 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 and runs until 7 April. This year’s Festival will be a feast of arts and culture with more than 90 events over three weeks, fusing world-class performances in traditional, classical and jazz music, drama, fine arts, and ballet and rich community and education programs.

The Metropolitan Opera, known widely as the Met, is one of the world’s leading opera houses, and New York’s best-known classical venue.  Founded in 1883, the Met has established itself as a venue for the world’s greatest voices as well as a visionary and forward-looking institution.  In 2006, the Met launched ‘Live in HD’, a series of performance transmissions shown live in high-definition (HD) in more than 600 venues around the world – from movie theaters to schools.