Tickets for an American-themed Abu Dhabi Festival  (ADF) will soon go on sale — five months before the festival is scheduled to begin. Organised by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF), the 11th ADF will take place from March 2 to 31, but tickets will be available from Friday.
“We had a high demand for tickets previously and that is why we start so early this time, to give people plenty of chances to join,” said Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo, founder and artistic director of the ADF. Being the only music festival of any kind still standing in Abu Dhabi, the expectations from the ADF are very high.
A mix of classical Western and Arabic music, ballet, jazz and visual art, the festival’s main programme has shrunken to just eight performances — all in Abu Dhabi. The rest of the month will be filled with educational and community programmes conducted across the country.
Renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel will lead the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in a pre-festival event.
The Aseel Ensemble will be the first concert during the festival’s programme on March 17, and it will represent a new partnership between the ADMAF and the Foundation for Arabic Music Archiving and Research.
“In the past few months we have agreed on a cooperation with the ADMAF and the first step is to record 30 Arab singers from the 20th century from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. There will be four CDs produced, which will be launched during the festival and also distributed commercially in the UAE,” explained Kamal Kassar, founder and president of the foundation.
It is in the ADF’s tradition to have a country of honour each year, and this time around it is going to be the USA. As a result, American artists dominate the festival’s programme. One of the biggest names in contemporary jazz, legendary pianist Herbie Hancock will perform on March 21, followed on March 23 by opera soprano Renee Fleming, who in 2008 became the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo headline an opening night gala. She will be accompanied in Abu Dhabi by Germany’s Dresden Philharmonic, conducted by Sascha Goetzel.
The American presence at the festival will end with the American Ballet Theatre, which will perform its production of ‘Coppelia’, a ballet in three acts based on the magical tale of Dr Coppelius’ workshop of mechanical toys and imaginative inventions, on March 28 and 29.
Also in the 2014 programme are Vladimir Ashkenazy and the European Union Youth Orchestra on March 24 and Montenegro’s Milos, who will take over the Emirates Palace stage on March 26 with a recital of Latin and classical guitar. The ADF will end on March 31 with a performance of ‘Arabic tradition and innovation’.
All main concerts will take place at the Emirates Palace  and will be “accompanied” by an art exhibition outside the auditorium that will remain open throughout the ADF. This year, the chosen artist is US’s Bill Fontana, who has an international reputation for his pioneering experiments in sound.
“One of the pieces I will exhibit is Desert Soundings, which explores the hidden sounds of Abu Dhabi desert. It is based on recordings I took inside the sand dunes here,” explained the artist. Full programme of ADF 2014 is available on www.abudhabifestival.com .