Held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the Abu Dhabi Festival 2011 got underway yesterday evening with a stunning gala performance of Mozart Masterpieces presented by The Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, Belgium. Starring the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie conducted and led by virtuoso violinist Augustin Dumay and accompanied by highly acclaimed pianist Abdel Rahman El Bacha and award-winning soloists Christia Hudziy on piano, Maxim Rysanov on Viola and Nikitia Borisa-Glebsky on violin from the eminent Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, enthralled the packed house with the repertoire of some of Mozart’s most beautiful works for the piano and violin. The evening also hosted the inauguration of the Algerian artist Rachid Koraïchi’s visual arts exhibition and the presentation of the Abu Dhabi Festival Award.
Amongst those attending the Gala opening were His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research President and Patron of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, His Excellency Khaldoon Al Mubarak, CEO of Mubadala, His Excellency Mr. Jos Chabert, Minister of State from Belgium, Her Excellency Anick Van Claster, Ambassador of Belgium to the UAE and Prinzessin Irina zu Sayn-Wittgenstein Berleburg and His Excellency Zaki Nusseibeh. Also present were representatives from a range of ADMAF’s international partners, including Jonathan Mills, Director of the Edinburgh Festival and Paul Dujardin from BOZAR.
Speaking directly after the gala performance, Festival Artistic Director and Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, Her Excellency Mrs. Hoda I Al Khamis Kanoo said: “It is my personal great pleasure to be joined by so many distinguished guests in celebration of the opening of the eighth Abu Dhabi Festival. Each year we strive to bring together a programme of the world’s brightest talent for the whole of the United Arab Emirates to enjoy. The performance this evening was entirely captivating and was a spectacular opening to this year’s Festival. I am delighted to welcome Belgium’s Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel with the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie to Abu Dhabi. It is through the development of partnerships and exchange of cultures with Belgium that we can work towards our aim of establishing Abu Dhabi as a leading cultural capital.”
The gala evening also saw the inauguration of Algerian artist Rachid Koraïchi’s visionary tour de force The Path of Roses (Tariq Al Ward) by His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan and H.E. Mrs. Hoda I Al Khamis Kanoo. Premiering for the first time in the GCC, this extraordinary installation explores the Islamic concept of Safer (travel and transcendence) and pays tribute to the thirteenth century poet and mystic Jalal ad-Din Rumi. His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan and H.E. Mrs Hoda I Al Khamis Kanoo were accompanied by Koraïchi through a viewing of the highly regarded masterpiece of contemporary Arab art.
The Abu Dhabi Festival Award was presented by H.E. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Development, Patron and President of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, H.E. Khaldoon Al Mubarak and H.E. Mrs. Hoda I Al Khamis Kanoo. Presented in association with Chopard, this year’s recipients were nine interior design students from the Higher Colleges of Technology for their work in creating and designing the masks, costumes and stage settings for the Children’s Opera in Abu Dhabi.
The Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie was brought to the Festival under the auspices of the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel. These two eminent institutions highlight the partnership between this year’s partner country Belgium and the 2011 Abu Dhabi Festival.
The audience was left captivated by this fabulous performance which featured two Steinway pianos on the stage at the same time, something that is rarely seen in the classical world. The four part performance opened with Mozart’s Concertone in C (K.190), followed by the Concerto for 2 pianos in E flat major (K. 365) which was declared by a commentator as a piece that is “impossible to hear without smiling”.
Mozart’s Concertone in C (K.190) and his Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat (K.364) provided the opportunity for the soloists to bring the beautiful scores to life. Closing the spectacular gala evening was Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 in A major (K.201). Showcasing Mozart’s break with the conventions of Salzburg, and a nod to the Viennese style, the piece brought a rousing end to an amazing evening. In an encore performance, the ensemble treated the audience to an extract from Georges Bizet’s L’Arlésienne.
Abu Dhabi Festival 2011
Abu Dhabi’s leading celebration of the arts, The Abu Dhabi Festival will continue from now until the 4th April. Celebrating the unique ability of the arts to bring people from diverse and varied backgrounds together in harmony and appreciation, the Festival’s programme of concerts, recitals, education and community events will provide more ways than ever for people to get involved.
Tickets for the Festival are available online from www.timeouttickets.com , or in person from the Emirates Palace ticket desk. Proceeds from ticket sales will support Ewa’a Shelter for Women and Children and Al Ghadeer the UAE Red Crescent Micro-financing initiative. For further information, please visit www.abudhabifestival.ae  or call 050 907 6158.