Media Release

Abu Dhabi Festival 2019 Commences Eclectic Programme of International Commissions with Puccini’s Masterpiece La Bohème in Berlin

For the Attention of the Culture / News Department

Press Release

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Abu Dhabi Festival 2019 Commences Eclectic Programme of International Commissions with Puccini’s Masterpiece La Bohème in Berlin


Extensive international performances to also include Arab music icons Anouar Brahem and Kinan Azmeh in Europe, the return of the Shubbak Festival, and Palestinian singer and musician, Omar Kamal, with his new world tour


(Abu Dhabi, UAE: 28 January 2019): Abu Dhabi Festival’s programme of international commissions commenced on 27 January 2019 at the Komische Oper Berlin, Germany, with Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece, La Bohème. Co-produced by the Abu Dhabi Festival 2019, the eclectic evening of one of the most moving stories in the history of musical theatre was attended by H.E. Ali Abdulla Al Ahmed, UAE Ambassador to Germany and H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival. Through collaborations with international strategic partners and leading global cultural organisations, Abu Dhabi Festival enables the creation of cultural initiatives that bring countries together and enables the appreciation of diverse societies. Expanding upon the international presence seen in past years, this year’s line-up will include extensive performances across Germany, Spain, UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany and Oman.


Giacomo Puccini’s ingenious interpretation of one of the most moving love stories in the history of musical theatre, La Bohème is a key work of contemporary life in 19th-century Paris; a portrait of life between art, unrequited love and modern isolation in the face of death. Directed by Barrie Kosky, under the musical guidance of Jordan de Souza, the premiere of the Italian libretto tackled a literary monument written in the mid-nineteenth century, portraying the suffering, celebrations and love of an early sub-culture whose anti-bourgeois lifestyle has now become the epitome of modern artistic existence.


H.E. Ali Abdulla Al Ahmed, UAE Ambassador to Germany, commended: “The cultural cooperation between Abu Dhabi Festival and its partners from the world’s leading cultural institutions for the co-commission of La Bohème.”

He added: “Hosting this remarkable re-interpretation of a classic opera in one of the most prestigious venues in Germany, Komische Oper Berlin, reflects the role played by ADMAF in bridging gaps in communication and creating meaningful dialogue between cultures.”

H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of ADMAF and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival said: “From its very beginning, the Abu Dhabi Festival has always sought to make the arts accessible and relevant to people of all backgrounds and ages. Our co-production with Komische Oper is a perfect example of this approach, for Barrie Kosky has a wonderful reputation for reproducing and re-interpreting classics while keeping true to their original spirit, turning classic works into new and exciting productions.


“As one of the Festival’s many significant international productions and co-commissions, this world premiere performance of Puccini’s La Bohème is yet another success story, not only for the Festival, but for Abu Dhabi as an Emirate and centre for excellence. It confirms to the world that we are true pioneers on the international stage, always furthering cultural dialogue and deepening understanding between nations.”

H.E. Ernst Fischer, German Ambassador to the UAE said: “I’m delighted that Abu Dhabi Festival co-produced Puccini’s La Bohème together with Komische Oper Berlin. This is a wonderful sign of our friendship and that we don’t just talk business and politics, but that we share together the experience of art, music and theatre. A shared appreciation of what moves us as human beings is really the basis of deepening our friendship and partnership in the future.”


Susanne Moser, Managing Director of Komische Oper Berlin, said: “Our work at the Komische Oper Berlin, which is in many respects unique and of which we are very proud, has increasingly drawn international attention in recent years. We have been very lucky to cooperate with various prestigious institutions from Europe and all over the world, from Australia via Asia to California. It is a great pleasure that now the Abu Dhabi Festival and its Artistic Director, H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, take such an interest in what we do here in Berlin. We are very thankful that with this cooperation for our new production of La Bohème, we are able to extend our international network and to spread our vision for music theatre even further.”

The Abu Dhabi Festival 2019 will present iconic Arab musicians at Pierre Boulez Saal, home for Arab music in Europe. It is here that young Palestinian-Jordanian pianist, Karim Said, made his solo debut in October 2018 as part of Abu Dhabi Festival’s Arab Artists Abroad, with a remarkable programme that encompassed four eras of music history. Now, Tunisian oud virtuoso, Anouar Brahem, will combine Arabic traditions with the innovative spirit of Jazz when performing Blue Maqams, joined by three masters of their craft: bass player Dave Holland, drummer Nasheet Waits and pianist Django Bates on 13 March 2019. Syrian clarinetist and composer, Kinan Azmeh, will also bring his latest collaboration to the Pierre Boulez Saal, joined by Dima Orsho to present Berlin: Songs for Days to Come, a journey of music and poetry that explores themes such as home, faith, and friendship on 29 May 2019.


On the occasion of the Bicentennial and the 20th anniversary celebrations, the Teatro Real has revived one of the most monumental and emblematic productions of its recent history: AIDA by Giuseppe Verdi. Co-produced by Teatro Real, Lyric Opera Chicago and Abu Dhabi Festival, the opera returns to the Teatro Real with Maestro Nicola Luisotti to conduct the chorus and orchestra with three casts of today’s best voices, featuring Violeta Urmana, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Daniela Barcellona, Gregory Kunde, Fabio Sartori, Alfred Kim, Liudmyla Monastyrska, and Anna Pirozzi, among others.


Composer and conductor Peter Eötvös will be visiting the Reina Sofia School of Music to give his invaluable insight to students from 17 – 23 June 2019, as well as conducting works by Mozart, Stravinsky and Beethoven, and his own compositions. These will then be performed by the students during their end-of-year concert at Teatro Real in Madrid, as part of Classics at the Festival in the presence of Her Majesty, Reina Sofia.


Returning for 2019 as London’s largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture, the Shubbak Festival is set to connect audiences and communities through ambitious festival programmes of premieres and commissions of visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature and debate. The Festival will include The Tangiers Acrobatic Group, HALKA, a theatrical circus art born of warrior tradition, combining human pyramids, wheels and jumps. It will also incorporate a performance by composer, trumpeter, santur player and singer, Amir ElSaffar,


whose unique sound fuses jazz with Arabic music, providing an important voice in an age of cross-cultural music making. He will lead an extraordinary ensemble to perform Luminiscencia on 6 July 2019, bringing the flamenco tradition back to the source of the old Arabic maqams through its melodic and graceful arabesques, bringing East and West together in a beautiful, contemporary sound world.


The Abu Dhabi Festival is also supporting Palestinian singer and musician, Omar Kamal, with his new world tour featuring songs from his latest album, which is set for release on 7 March 2019. The album will be launched as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival Composers’ Platform, with the world tour subsequently hosting performances in USA, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Oman and the UAE.