The 20th edition of Abu Dhabi Festival was held from 1st to 20th March and was met with resounding success.
An amazing selection of performances were put on at the Emirates Palace, Cultural Foundation, and NYUAD during the Festival.
This year’s edition of the Festival witnessed record-breaking attendance, with over 20,000 arts, culture, and music enthusiasts coming together to celebrate the power of the arts. The Festival hosted nine performances, with an additional 10th planned for later this year, making it the largest edition yet.
Abu Dhabi Festival 2023 featured some of the world’s most renowned artists, composers, tenors, musicians, and more, who delivered memorable performances throughout the first three weeks of March.
Held under the theme “The Will for Evolution”, Abu Dhabi Festival 2023 advanced its position as one of the region’s most significant and influential cultural events.
This year, the Festival expanded its reach and audience by partnering with the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, resulting in a dynamic fusion of music and culture showcasing the Festival’s ongoing commitment to promoting cultural exchange and diversity.
The Festival also ventured outside of its traditional venue of Emirates Palace and hosted its Recital Series at NYUAD Arts Center, with a programme that featured the winner of the 2021 International Chopin Piano Competition, Bruce Liu, acclaimed Shanghainese pianist Haochen Zhang and violin virtuoso Leia Zhu.
On Wednesday, 1st March, the Festival kicked off with a performance by acclaimed Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez. The singer gave a spectacular performance accompanied by an orchestra, featuring a programme of opera arias followed by Latin American songs.
As part of Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation’s ongoing commitment to providing opportunities for young artists to showcase their talent, Emirati singer and rising star Rashed Al Nuaimi gave a spellbinding performance during the Festival’s opening night.On Friday, 10th March, the Emirates Palace hosted the Middle East premiere of De Scheherazade a Yo, Carmen. Vanguard flamenco dancer and choreographer María Pagés transcended the legendary female character — Carmen, the gypsy cigarette girl from Mérimée’s novella in this mesmerising performance.
Two-time Grammy Award-winning Jazz musician, Gregory Porter, made his UAE debut on Saturday, 11th March. He performed a set of his smooth original tracks from his albums Liquid Spirit and Take Me to the Alley, as well as captivating renditions of the classics, joined by Chip Crawford on piano, Emanuel Harrold on drums, Tivon Pennicott on saxophone/horns, and Jahmal Nichols on bass.
For the first time in the Middle East, the Emirates Palace hosted From West to East: A Classical Odyssey on Friday, 17th March. Academy Award-winning composer, Tan Dun, conducted the Orchestra of Teatro Comunale di Modena Pavarotti-Freni, joined by world-famous Chinese cellist Jian Wang, in an unforgettable musical journey from West to East featuring an iconic classics repertoire of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Mussorgsky, followed by the UAE premiere of his original Pipa Concerto.
Abu Dhabi Festival also presented the Middle East premiere of Buddha Passion by Grammy and Academy Award-winning composer, Tan Dun, on Saturday, 18th March. Spanning the boundaries of classical music and Eastern and Western traditions, the performance was a 95-minute oratorio illustrating six Buddha parables and stories.
The sixth was the Buddha’s ascension into Nirvana. The performance captured the ancient narratives of the Buddha’s teachings and the timeless, universal concepts of love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.
On 19th March, the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi hosted the world premiere of the immersive Pearl Diver’s Daughter as part of Abu Dhabi Festival. The co-production between Abu Dhabi Festival and the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi featured a collaboration between Emirati writer Maitha Al Khayat and Emirati composer Eman Al Hashimi.
Together, with the American contemporary dance group Company E and Lebanese singer-songwriter Mayssa Karaa, they weaved a magical story told through narration, music and movement.
Abu Dhabi Festival promotes cultural exchange and understanding and looks forward to inspiring and delighting audiences in future editions.