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A capital take on the classics

By Keith J Fernandez



The capital is not a good place to crack jokes about fat ladies singing this week, because some of classical music’s most beautiful stars and biggest names will be performing at the ADTA 5th Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival.


From today until April 2 at Emirates Palace Auditorium, the event brings together Western and Arabic traditions in what ADMAF founder Hoda Al-Khamis Kanoo calls a “bridge of cultures”.


Among those putting the capital on the classical music map are the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by principal conductor Vladimir Jurowski, the Bolshoi Ballet and Orchestra, soprano Anna Netrebko and violinists Sarah Chang and Nikolaj Znaider. Also performing are several well-known Arab artists, such as soprano Hiba Al Kawas, singer Khaled Selim and Iraqi oud virtuoso Naseer Shamma.


“Abu Dhabi is built on tolerance. As a destination it is unique, with hundreds of nationalities making their home here and tourists coming from everywhere,” says Al Khamis-Kanoo.


There is even a cross-cultural meeting of musical traditions, when Al Kawas premieres her own compositions with guitarist José Maria Gallardo del Rey on April 2. And through the event, the work of celebrated Tunisian artist Nja Mahdaoui will be displayed in the auditorium foyer.


“We now have an audience who appreciate classical music and, more so, an audience who can appreciate artists of this calibre,” she says. Part of the success in attracting such big names comes from a tie-up with performing arts management company IMG Artists, which is putting together the shows.


Al Khamis-Kanoo says spending on art will develop an artistic tradition in the Emirates.


“Everybody deserves to go to a concert of high calibre,” she says. “Education is the key to our future. What we need now are academies for arts, for music, so by the time Saadiyat island is ready, we can attend these events, administer them, and perform at them.”


Tickets are available at boxofficeme.com or at the venue. Call: 02 690 9000.



What’s on




Who: Young Russian composer Vladimir Jurowski (pictured), who took over as principal conductor of the LPO last September will lead one of Britain’s finest musical institutions through a selection of Mozart, Brahms, Ravel and Tchaikovsky. World-famous violinist Nikolaj Znaider and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet will join in on separate days.


When: Friday and Saturday (March 21 and 22)




Who: The renowned ballet company, conducted by Pavel Sorokin, presents one of the favourite pieces, Swan Lake.


When: Wednesday and Thursday (March 26 and 27)

NASEER SHAMMA (pictured above)


Who: The Iraqi oud maestro premieres eight new compositions, backed by the specially constituted 60-piece Oriental Orchestra. In playing the oud, he

combines ancient techniques with new instruments such as the eight-stringed lute that he invented. He often plays with one hand, in the manner of soldiers who lost their arms in the Gulf War.


When: Tuesday, April 1




Who: Simply the most glamorous face of classical music, Grammy-nominated soprano Netrebko (left) is joined by the mezzo-soprano Elina Garança and baritone Erwin Schott in this opera gala, performing a selection of arias by Verdi and others.


When: Saturday, March 29




Who: Proving pop is not just about froth Egyptian singer Selim, is joined by Asma Almoanaoar for a collection of Arabic classical favourites. They will be backed by an orchestra conducted by Saeed Kamal.


When: Monday (March 24)



Who: The exceptional Lebanese soprano and composer will premiere a selection of her own compositions, joined by Spanish guitarist José Maria Gallarrdo del Rey and backed by the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Wojciech Czepiel

When: Wednesday, April 2




Who: The violinist performs Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi, accompanied by the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra as conducted by Karel Mark Chichon. A child prodigy who began her career at the age of nine, the 27-year-old Korean-American is recognised the world over as one of the most captivating classical artists. She has released an astonishing 17 albums in the space of her career so far.


When: Monday, March 31