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The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi Festival is returning for its 18th edition in 2021, including 16 world premieres, 12 festival productions, eight global co-productions and four creative commissions.

Held by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF), the theme of the upcomming event will be ‘The Future Starts Now’. It touts tolerance, openness and humanity as its core values.

“This 18th edition of the Abu Dhabi Festival comes at a time of exceptional circumstances. The pandemic has changed our lives, and now, more than ever, the community must come together to cultivate hope, spark creativity and nurture innovation through culture and the arts,” said ADMAF founder Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo.

“The UAE is blessed with a forward-thinking, wise leadership that recognises the value of art and culture and sees it not as a luxury but as a necessity,” she added.

The creative commissions

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Mohammed Fairouz Image Credit: Supplied

ADF has commissioned four artists for this year’s event.

Emirati composer Mohammed Fairouz composed the ‘Fifth Symphony’, inspired by the life of the UAE’s founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The London Symphony Orchestra will premiere the piece in the British capital.

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Kudsi Erguner Image Credit: Supplied

‘Opera L’Apocalypse Arabe’, co-produced with Festival Aix-en-Provence and the LUMA Foundation in France, is a world premiere, based on the poems of Lebanese-American artist Etel Adnan, with composition and libretto by avante-garde Palestinian-Israeli composer Samir Odeh-Tamimi, and directed by French-Lebanese artistic director Pierre Audi. It will be performed by Frankfurt-based Ensemble Modern and conducted by Ivan Volkov.

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Ivan Volkov Image Credit: Supplied

Emirati composer Ihab Darwish’s ‘Hekayat: Symphonic Tales’, which revolves around the UAE’s values, will be performed by the Beethoven Academy Orchestra from Poland. Conducted by Tomasz Tokarczyk, it features star tenor José Cura, international soloist Sara Andon, traditional Japanese drum ensemble Kodō and flamenco guitarist Carlos Piñana.

Another world premiere is ‘Al Hayat’. Naseer Shamma composes and preforms the piece with Arab musicians, inspiring hope and humanity in the face of challenges.


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Ismail Altunbas Image Credit: Supplied

In addition to the commissions, ADF will team up with Al Ain Film Festival. ADF will also co-produce a documentary with Emirati filmmaker Nasser Al Dhaheri chronicling the life of the late UAE founder, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, focusing on when he was the Ruler’s Representative of the city of Al Ain — ‘Al Ain Hajar Al Ruha (1946-1966)’.

They will also co-produce a comedy feature film ‘Uncle Naji’ from Emirati filmmaker Ahmad Zain Al Hashmi, starring Ibrahim Al Meresi, social media influencer Mohammed Al Kindi and more.

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Image Credit: Supplied

The festival will also feature a Youth Platform, a Composer’s Platform and a showcase of the Visual Arts. The latter includes ‘Dance me to the End of Night: Spirituality in Art Inspired by Islam from the 10th Century until Today’, an exhibition at the Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt am Main, which features the work of contemporary artists from the UAE and the Arab world.

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Dance me to the End of the night Image Credit: Supplied

Dates of the festival will be announced closer to the event. A full list of talents and sessions is available online through the ADF website.