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Al Ain Classical Music Festival expands

United Arab Emirates: Tuesday, March 18 - 2008 @ 13:42

The Festival – which has traditionally focussed solely on Al Ain and was restricted to three days – will now run for 11 days, from March 6 until March 16 – and feature a major concert engagement in Abu Dhabi.

“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,” explained His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of ADTA and ADACH.

“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.”

The Festival, which is being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs, will record some significant regional cultural ‘firsts.’ These include the region’s first Arabic performance of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovani’ opera performed by a cast of opera singers from Lebanon accompanied by 63 artists from the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra – one of Europe’s most prominent orchestras. It will also feature the first Wagner concert recording made in the Arab world when Sony TV records a concert by Staatskapelle Dresden – one of the world’s longest established orchestras and ranked among the world’s top five – under the direction of its principal conductor, the world- renowned Fabio Luisi.

“The Al Ain Classical Music Festival has now come of age and will this year send a signal to music lovers everywhere of our intention to develop a world-class event which will eventually rank among the most acclaimed, such as the Salzburg Music Festival,” said His Excellency Mohamed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Director General, Abu Dhabi Authority For Culture & Heritage (ADACH).

“The Festival has been extended in duration and expanded to Abu Dhabi to afford greater access to music lovers from throughout the UAE and the neighbouring region. It will now take in two weekends, instead of the traditional single weekend, and music lovers will be able to enjoy world-class performances in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi. We are confident this Festival upgrade will attract increasing support from both within and outside the Emirates.

“The Festival’s enhanced profile is also in line with the Abu Dhabi Government’s overarching ambition to evolve this emirate, and the UAE’s capital city, into a truly global cultural centre which is universal in its offering and its appeal,” added Al Mazrouei.

The Festival is this year under the directorship of Massimo Nebuloni, Project and Tour Manager of the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala – the performing arts academy of Milan of one of the world’s most famous opera houses.

“Accademia del Teatro alla Scala is a symbol of artistic and professional excellence,” said Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, Deputy Chairman, ADACH. “Apart from overseeing the compilation of the Festival’s performance programme, Massimo is bringing his extensive expertise to a series of Festival master classes which will encompass vital aspects of performing arts management delivered by some of the most respected names in the musical arts sector.”

Festival performances will be held across five venues – Al Ain’s historic Al Jahili Fort and the town’s Municipality Theatre and the Emirates Palace, National Theatre and ADMA Theatre in Abu Dhabi.

The curtain rises on the Festival with the planned March 6th staging in Al Ain’s Municipality Theatre of the Arabian Gulf’s first Arabic performance of Mozart’s Don Giovani opera with over 60 artists from Lebanon and Poland.

“This is something of a coup for the Festival,” said Nusseibeh. “This will have an appeal that extends well beyond opera devotees – and will introduce a new generation of Arabs to the art of opera.”

March 7th sees the Festival move to Al Ain’s picturesque Al Jahili Fort for a classical concert by the Warsaw Philharmonic of the most well-known opera, arias, duets and ensembles. The concert will include performances by three sopranos, a tenor, baritone and bass baritone and will includes works by Donizetti, Bizet, Verdi, Rossini, Gounod, Mozart and Puccini all sung in their original scores.

On March 8th, the Festival will be celebrated in Abu Dhabi in the Emirates Palace Auditorium with a performance of Wagner’s works by 120 members of the Staatskapelle Dresden under the musical direction of Fabio Luisi. This is the concert which will be recorded by Sony TV constituting the first major classical recording ever made in Abu Dhabi and the first Wagner recording made in the Arab world.

On March 9th, Al Jahili Fort will host a lyric concert with arias from the most popular opera repertoire performed by the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra with a cast of singers from different American, European and Middle Eastern opera companies conducted by Maestro Zbigniew Graca.

March 10th sees another Festival highlight in Al Jahili Fort – a performance by the UAE Philharmonic Orchestra, the UAE’s youngest orchestra which will include classical music and an innovative blend of special European and Arabic compositions arranged to reflect the country’s modern and diverse culture.

On March 11th, a violin and piano concert will be held in ADMA-OPCO theatre and will feature the Swiss duo, the Tschopp sisters, Sybille at the violin, and Isabel at the piano, performing masterpiece sonatas from Mozart and Brahms.

Al Jahili Fort is the setting for concerts on March 13,14 and 15. March 13th will be a performance by the 30-strong Academy Teatro Alla Scala String Orchestra of the works of Puccini and Vivaldi under conductor Pietro Mianiti. March 14th is given over to the 70-strong Teatro alla Scala Academy’s Symphonic Orchestra, again under conductor Pietro Mianiti, for a concert of great Italian operatic works, including from Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Verdi’s Vespri Siciliani. These will be sung by four soloists comprising two sopranos, one tenor and a baritone.

March 15th sees the Symphonic Orchestra back in action for a celebration of the music of Prokofiev and Beethoven with an unusual version of Peter and the Wolf narrated in Arabic, and the notes of the Beethoven 5th Symphony under the directorship of Pietro Mianiti.

March 16th will be a special evening concert in Abu Dhabi, staged with the collaboration of the Milan Chamber of Commerce and the Fiera Milano Group, at the National Theatre covering Tchaikovsky’s Serenata and opera arias from the Italian repertoire

The 8th Al Ain Classical Music Festival is already winning international support with more than 250 members of the German Wagner Association booking tickets to Abu Dhabi to attend the March 8th Wagner evening.

“This booking alone is evidence of the international appeal of music,” said Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. “The Festival is playing a significant role in developing the cultural destination status of Abu Dhabi and we believe its draw will not only be from within the UAE, but from neighbouring Oman, the surrounding Middle East and Europe.

“In addition, we are working with hotels both in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain to offer packages for the Festival duration and the Emirates Natural History Group is volunteering to provide guided tours of Al Ain for Festival visitors to the Garden City.

“Cultural tourists are important to us because our commissioned research distinctly shows that they have a greater individual spend than conventional sun and sand tourists and a high propensity for repeat visitation.”

From an educational standpoint, the Festival will also feature workshops with four of Europe’s leading artistic directors – Cecilia Balestra, Carmelo Di Gennaro, Risto Nieminen, Director of the annual Helsinki Festival which draws an audience of over a quarter of a million people, and Gaston Fournier-Facio, Artistic Department Co-ordinator of the Teatro alla Scala.

The workshops, which will be open, free-of-charge, to all on a first-booked basis, will cover a range of performing arts management issues from ‘International Marketing Of Serious Music’ to ‘The Case For The Festival; ‘Relationships Between Theatre and Country’ and ‘The Relationship Between Art and the Economy.’ They will be held on March 9, 11 and 12 from 10am to 6pm in the ADMA-OPCO theatre.

“Cultural education is a major plank in our ambition to become a global cultural destination which will culminate in the opening, on Saadiyat Island just off the UAE capital’s coastline, of a Cultural District which will house the largest single cluster of world-class cultural assets,” explained Al Muhairi.

“In realising these ambitions, we have accepted the responsibility of nurturing a national and regional psyche of artistic appreciation, which events, such as the Al Ain Classical Music Festival, will help inspire. The educational programme will also, we hope, help motivate a new generation of Emiratis to evaluate careers within the arts domain so they will be ready to take up the many opportunities which will result from Abu Dhabi’s emerging international cultural status.”

Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District will be home to: the Sheikh Zayed National Museum; the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi modern and contemporary arts museum – the world’s largest Guggenheim and the only one in the Middle East; the Louvre Abu Dhabi universal museum – the first Louvre institution outside France; a performing arts centre, maritime museum and a cluster of arts pavilions.

The Al Ain Classical Music Festival has achieved year-on-year growth since its inception in 2000 when it attracted an audience of between 400-500. Last year it achieved an audience of around 2,000 people per concert largely emanating from the UAE and Al Ain.

The Al Ain Classical Music Festival concerts are free of charge except for the Opera Don Giovani and the Staatskapelle Dresden which have limited seating.

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Tuesday, March 18- 2008 @ 13:42 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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