Chinese New Year -crane fairy dance-1701180586272
File image of Chinese New Year Crane Fairy dance Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation has unveiled the programme for the Abu Dhabi Festival 2024, which is held under the patronage of Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan.

The line-up features classical ballet, jazz, opera, and traditional Arabic showcases, world and Arab premieres, accompanied by community and educational programme.

This year, Abu Dhabi Festival designated China as the Country of Honour, commemorating 40 years of diplomatic ties between the People’s Republic of China and the UAE.

In 2024, the Festival’s theme, 'The Will for Hope', focuses on fostering hope and optimism during challenging times. A portion of the 2024 revenues of Abu Dhabi Festival will be donated to 'Tarahum for Gaza' campaign by Red Crescent. This contribution aligns with the official efforts of the UAE to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people and aid those affected in Gaza.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Abu Dhabi Festival Founding Honorary Patron said: "The Abu Dhabi Festival embarks on its third decade of sustainable cultural progress, embodying Abu Dhabi’s vision and reaffirming its commitment to elevating Emirati culture globally. By showcasing leading creatives and performers on the stages of Abu Dhabi, the Festival underscores the significance of culture and the arts in fostering hope, spreading values of coexistence, peace, and human fraternity, and conveys the message of the tolerant and open-minded UAE to the world."

He added: “Celebrating the People’s Republic of China as the Guest Country of Honour, this exceptional edition of the Festival will be enriched with cultural brilliance, reflecting diverse traditions from the East and the West. This mirrors its pivotal role in stimulating cultural diplomacy, human interaction, and dialogue.

Sheikh Abdullah added: “The twenty-first edition of the Abu Dhabi Festival follows the celebration of the UAE’s 52nd National Day and the hosting of COP28 and showcases the Festival’s role in spreading environmental awareness in the UAE and worldwide. It symbolises collective effort, with institutions and inspirational creatives serving as ambassadors for environmental preservation and combating climate change, for the sake of our natural resources and the future generations.

He added: “Proud of the significant milestones achieved to date, the Festival looks forward to continuing its journey of leadership and excellence, enhancing the country’s global status as a beacon of knowledge, culture, and creativity.”

Sheikh Salem bin Khalid Al Qassimi, Minister of Culture, said: “Through this productive collaboration with the Festival and its organisers, we aim to achieve the vision and strategy of the Ministry, inspired by a concept that resonates globally. We work towards enriching the local cultural landscape through partnerships with culture, art, and heritage institutions in the UAE, supporting creators and talented individuals across various fields, and striving to enhance dialogue between cultures. This strategy serves to deliver effective projects and experiences that reflect the flourishing, diverse culture scene in the United Arab Emirates on a local, regional, and global level."

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism -Abu Dhabi, commented: “In its 21st edition, the Abu Dhabi Festival embodies our cultural vision, aiming to nurture creativity, empower artistic talents, and sow the seeds of hope for a better future for all. This stems from our faith in the role of the arts in building bridges of dialogue and communication between cultures and in dedicating ourselves to noble human values. Collaborating with partners, including the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, we continue to develop our cultural ecosystem to support the flourishing of our creative economy while preserving the elements of our rich heritage, ensuring its sustainability for generations to come."

Huda Ibrahim Alkhamis, the founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and the founder and Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival, expressed her gratitude to the nation’s wise leadership, led by President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. She shared her appreciation for his unwavering support and astute guidance in propagating culture, empowering the country’s creative sector, and reinforcing its standing as a global hub of culture and fertile ground for creativity and innovation.

She said: “With the inspirational support of the Festival’s Honorary Founding Patron, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi Festival embarks on its third decade. Today we unveil the programme for the 21st edition under the theme ‘The Will for Hope.’ This conveys a message of empowerment for culture and the arts as potent forces in promoting enlightenment, coexistence, and peace; a guiding beacon and a source of light and hope for a better future for our region and all of humanity. With the invincible will for hope, nations thrive as they unite to strengthen our civilisation and shared humanity.”

Zhang Yiming, Chinese Ambassador to the UAE, said: “China is deeply honoured to be the Guest Country of Honour for the Abu Dhabi Festival 2024. The year 2024 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United Arab Emirates, therefore, there will be a series of wonderful performances by Chinese art groups at that time. This collaboration signifies the strong cultural ties between the two nations and showcases the richness of Chinese arts and culture heritage to the global audience. We highly appreciate ADMAF for their commitment to fostering cultural exchange and look forward to a successful partnership that will further strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding between China and the UAE.”

Homaid Al Shimmari, Deputy Group CEO and Chief Corporate & Human Capital Officer at Mubadala, the Festival’s Lead partner commented: “As a lead partner of the Abu Dhabi Festival, Mubadala is delighted to promote a cultural renaissance that pushes boundaries and embraces diversity. The Festival’s commitment to supporting artistic talent aligns with Mubadala’s vision of fostering innovation and inspiration. Together, we embark on a journey to enhance cultural experiences, highlight creativity, and build bridges that connect communities through the universal language of the arts.”

Highlighted performances

Chinese New Year: The National Ballet of China

Co-Presented by Abu Dhabi Festival and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in United Arab Emirates

26 and 27 January 2024, Emirates Palace, Arab World Premiere, National Ballet of China

The festival kicks off with a captivating performance by the National Ballet of China, presenting a reimagined ‘The Nutcracker’ by Tchaikovsky. Expect a journey from a Beijing temple fair to enchanting fairy realms, concluding with a thrilling explosion of firecrackers.

Puccini Opera Gala

On the 100th anniversary of the death of Giacomo Puccini. Co-presented by Abu Dhabi Festival 2024, the Embassy of Italy to the UAE and the Italian Cultural Institute in Abu Dhabi.

31 January 2024, Emirates Palace, Arab World Premiere, Orchestra of the Puccini Festival

On the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Giacomo Puccini’s death, the Festival welcomes the Orchestra of the Puccini Festival at Torre del Lago, conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig, and with the participation of Soprano Valeria Sepe and tenor Francesco Meli who promises a powerful and moving experience for opera enthusiasts.

Pablo Ferrández

1 February 2024, The Blue Hall, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, Arab World Premiere

Renowned cellist Pablo Ferrández, hailed as a “new cello genius,” presents a richly varied programme, promising a profound and emotional journey through classical music.

Kamasi Washington

3 February 2024, Emirates Palace, Arab World Premiere

Saxophonist and bandleader Kamasi Washington redefines jazz boundaries with a progressive approach, fusing jazz, hip-hop, R & B, and classical music for a unique and unforgettable experience along with 12 musicians.

Music Residency and Recital with Leia Zhu

In collaboration with The British School Al Khubairat

9 February 2024, The British School Al Khubairat

Violin prodigy Leia Zhu collaborates with 30 young musicians in the UAE during a one-week residency, culminating in an incredible recital.

Pretty Yende / Francesco Demuro

11 February 2024, The Red Theater, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, Arab World Premiere

Soprano Pretty Yende and tenor Francesco Demuro come together for a programme of operatic jewels, singing extracts from Donizetti, Verdi, Bellini, and Gounod accompanied on the piano by Vincenzo Scalera.

Yamen Saadi

13 February 2024, The Red Theater, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, Arab World Premiere

Concertmaster of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, Yamen Saadi, delivers a supremely virtuosic violin performance. He will be accompanied on the piano by Julien Quentin.

Lucas and Arthur Jussen

19 February 2024, The Red Theater, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, Arab World Premiere

Piano duo Lucas and Arthur Jussen showcase their extraordinary talent with a breathtaking performance of classical works s by Mozart, Schumann, Widmann, Debussy and Rachmaninov.

Lawrence Brownlee

25 February 2024, The Red Theater, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, Arab World Premiere

International opera star Lawrence Brownlee brings a dazzling array of works, celebrating vocal artistry. He will sing a dazzling array of works, ranging from Rossini to Verdi, to the piano accompaniment of Fabio Centanni.

Kirill Gerstein

27 February 2024, The Red Theater, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, Arab World Premiere

Pianist Kirill Gerstein presents an energetic and imaginative programme spanning various musical traditions and taking the audience from Chopin, Fauré, Poulenc and Liszt, to Schumann and Godowsky.

Sheikh Mahmoud El Tohamy

14 March 2024, Louvre Abu Dhabi, World Premiere

Known as the ‘Sheikh of Egyptian chanters’, renowned Inshad master Sheikh Mahmoud El-Tohamy presents the world premiere of ‘The Carpenter’s Daughters, featuring poems from Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and the Maghreb. The evening will also feature a beautiful performance of Aneen Al Asheq.

China National Symphony Orchestra

Co-Presented by Abu Dhabi Festival and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in

United Arab Emirates, 8 December 2024, Emirates Palace, Arab World Premiere

The festival culminates with the grand performance by the China National Symphony Orchestra, known for their breathtaking interpretations of Western classics and Chinese national music.

The 21st edition of Abu Dhabi Festival features a line-up of events, including exclusive commissioning and co-productions, along with local, regional, and global premieres, in addition to a series of world-class events that include musical tours, panel discussions, education and community programs and workshops.