al ain classical music festival comes of age, says abdullah bin zayed curtain to rise on 11-day international event

Published March 9th, 2008 - 09:02 GMT

The eighth annual Al Ain Classical Music Festival, which gets under way on Thursday evening with the region’s first Arabic performance of the operatic masterpiece Don Giovanni, has now “come of age” and is evolving into a truly global event, according to His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Addressing audiences in a festival programme message, Sheikh Abdullah, who has lent his patronage to the event, said the Festival, which this year has been organised under a co-operation agreement with Milan’s renowned Accademia Teatro alla Scala, will evolve into “an international cultural showcase ranking alongside the world’s best.”

Sheikh Abdullah said the move by the Al Ain Classical Music Festival Committee to expand the event from its previous three-day formula to an 11-day music and arts extravaganza taking in performances in the Garden City of Al Ain and the UAE capital city, would help evolve the emirate into “a truly global cultural centre which is universal in its offering and appeal.”

The Festival this year features a production, direction and performing cast of more than 150 from 10 nations and a diverse programme of opera, classical concerts, lyric renditions, orchestral evenings, violin and piano chamber sessions and a series of educational master classes, which are free-of-charge to both amateurs and professionals alike.

“The educational programme will, we hope, help motivate a new generation of Emiratis to embark upon careers within the arts domain so they will be ready to take up the many opportunities that will result from Abu Dhabi’s emerging international cultural status,” said Sheikh Abdullah.

The educational aspect of the Festival is an integral element in Abu Dhabi’s campaign to nurture a culture of arts appreciation within the emirate and the nation ahead of the launch of the single largest cluster of world-class cultural assets on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island. This 27-square kilometre island, offshore the capital city, is being transformed into a signature leisure, cultural and tourism destination and its Cultural District will host at least four international museums, a performing arts centre and park with arts pavilions. These include the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum and the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum.

“The Cultural District will be an international centre of education. It will open up new horizons in art appreciation, will expand understanding of our own inherent culture along with other cultures from around the world and will form a basis for knowledge sharing that will forge new cross-cultural links,” said Sheikh Abdullah.

Though this year’s Al Ain Classical Music Festival will adopt a dual-city role, it will continue to be mainly concentrated on Al Ain, the capital of the emirate’s Eastern Province, according to His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage (ADACH).

“Al Ain, which is central to the cultural heritage of Abu Dhabi and the UAE, will remain the focus of this festival as it embarks on a new era of progression,” said Sheikh Sultan.

“The cultural heritage of Al Ain, which has been subject to a Unesco study and for which we hope to achieve official Unesco recognition, can be leveraged to deliver a festival of international cultural standing with significant tangible tourism benefits for the Garden City.”

Tickets for the Don Giovanni curtain raiser in Al Ain’s Municipality Theatre, which has limited seating, are available online at: The opera will be sung by a septet from Lebanon with music from 63 artists from the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra – one of the most prominent in Europe.


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