More than twenty thousand visitors attended the Festival’s headline programme of events from 1 – 20 March
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-: The 20th edition of Abu Dhabi Festival was a resounding success, held under the honourary patronage of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, from 01 – 20 March 2023. The Festival took place at The Emirates Palace, Cultural Foundation, and NYUAD, and showcased an outstanding line-up of captivating performances.
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 9 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.
The 20th edition of Abu Dhabi Festival held under the theme ‘The Will for Evolution’ was a historic one and was held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, Assistant to His Highness the President of the Emirates Red Crescent Authority for Women’s Affairs, and Chairperson of the Higher Committee for Ataya Initiative. Through its innovative commissions and productions, Abu Dhabi Festival 2023 advanced its position as one of the most significant and influential cultural events in the region. 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.
Juan Diego Flórez and Friends at Emirates Palace
On Wednesday, 1 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.
De Scheherezade a Yo, Carmen at Emirates Palace
On Friday, 10 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.
Gregory Porter at Emirates Palace
Two-time Grammy Award-winning Jazz musician, Gregory Porter, made his UAE debut on Saturday, 11 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.
From West to East: A Classical Odyssey and Buddha Passion by Tan Dun at Emirates Palace
For the first time in the Middle East, the Emirates Palace hosted From West to East: A Classical Odyssey on Friday, 17 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, 18 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, with the sixth being 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.
Pearl Diver’s Daughter
On 19 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 remains dedicated to promoting cultural exchange and understanding and looks forward to inspiring and delighting audiences in its future editions.