Media Release

Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation Announces Internationally Renowned Headline Acts for the Abu Dhabi Festival 2018

Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation Announces Internationally Renowned Headline Acts for the Abu Dhabi Festival 2018

 15th Abu Dhabi Festival – a month-long festival of arts and culture – to be held in March 2018, celebrating the ‘Year of Zayed’ and the cultural wealth of India as the ‘Country of Honour’.

Diverse programme of community and education events to include engaging, innovative and inspiring youth platforms and initiatives for people of all ages.

High resolution images are available to download here.


(Abu Dhabi, UAE: 27 November 2017): The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) today announced an exceptional headline programme of concerts, performances and exhibitions as part of Abu Dhabi Festival 2018 (ADF18). With more than 100 events, 26 productions, one co-production and 16 commissions across 30 venues, the Festival returns for its 15th year with an illustrious mix of artists, genres and nationalities as it celebrates India as the ‘Country of Honour’ and joins the nation in marking 2018 as the ‘Year of Zayed’ – underscoring its commitment to future generations by championing cultural exchange, creativity and innovation in the arts.


Presenting more than 500 international artists from 30 different countries and featuring masterpieces by more than 40 composers, Abu Dhabi Festival 2018’s headline programme will include performances by world-renowned violinist Nicola Benedetti with UK’s Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; a theatrical spectacular of celebrating Indian dance The Merchants of Bollywood; the eminent Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia – Rome helmed by one of Europe’s most dynamic conductors, Sir Antonio Pappano and joined by pianist Beatrice Rana and violinist Kyung Wha Chung; the world premiere of Emirati composer Ihab Darwish ‘Waves of my Life’ performed by Beethoven Academy Orchestra conducted by Stoyan Stoyanov and a host of other stars; internationally-recognised soprano Deborah Voigt accompanied by beloved Lebanese tenor Bechara Moufarrej; the Sinatra of the Middle East – Palestinian singer Omar Kamal with a night of jazz, swing and Arabic classics; a concert of global music and glamour with Pink Martini; an immersive multimedia experience in Pianographique – two pianists performing works by Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Maurice Ravel, accompanied with live visualisations by Ars Electronica; A classical Indian dance interpretation of the work of Rumi in We the Living by Tanusree Shankar Dance Academy; The Sarod Master USTAD Amjad Ali Khan makes his Abu Dhabi Festival Debut; an epic evening of pinao concertors for two, three and four pianos with The Bach Project; and, to conclude the Festival, Compañía Nacional de Danza make their Arab World Debut with Don Quixote.


In line with its legacy to champion culture in all its forms, ADF18 will also recognise outstanding achievements in the music industry by prolific musical pioneers through the Abu Dhabi Festival Awards. This year’s recipients will include Krzysztof Penderecki in celebration of his prolific career as a composer and conductor, recognizing the cultural significance of his works for which he has been hailed as Poland’s greatest living composer, winning international awards including five GRAMMYs; Philip Glass, for his iconic contributions in redefining the parameters of contemporary classical music; and Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera House, London and Principal Conductor of Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia – Rome.


Speaking at the press launch held at the Emirates Palace, just one of the venues of Abu Dhabi Festival’s annual headline programme, H.E. Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of ADMAF and Artistic Director of ADF, said: “Sheikh Zayed once said “knowledge and culture are the cornerstones of civilisation, progress and nation-building.”  We celebrate the year of Sheikh Zayed not only to honor a beloved leader from the past, but because his spirit lives on in us as an appeal to the future. Sheikh Zayed built a nation by practicing tolerance, hope and inclusion rather than fear and rejection and we honor this legacy by continuing this wonderful message.

We are inspired to weave the elegant and intricate balance between tradition and modernity.  We rejoice in the diversity of seven Emirates complementing each other, but also the cultural diversity within the United Arab Emirates, which is home to so many different nationalities, living side by side in harmony and prosperity.”


Her Excellency continued: “2017 marks the opening of our spectacular Louvre Abu Dhabi, which traces the powerful message of human universality amid cultural diversity echoing the journey of the Abu Dhabi Festival.  As we continue to discover and learn, we truly take pleasure in sharing with all in the Capital and the seven Emirates the extraordinary gift which Sheikh Zayed has granted us.”


In recognition of the announcement of India being named Abu Dhabi Festival 2018’s country of honour, H.E. Navdeep Sing Suri, Indian Ambassador to the UAE commented, “It is a matter of pride that India has been chosen as the Guest of Honour for the 2018 edition of Abu Dhabi Festival. We look forward to working closely with HE Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo and her team to bring some of the finest elements of Indian culture to the arts loving people of Abu Dhabi.”


Marking the culmination of ADMAF’s year-round commitment to arts education and community enrichment, ADF18 will return with a series of Youth Platforms, empowering Emirati talent in the arts and culture field through the ADF Visual Arts Education Programme; Islamic Arts Workshops; Young Filmmakers’ Circle; Riwaq Al Fikr; Riwaq Al Adab wal Kitab; Riwaq Al Khatt Al Arabi; The Gulf Capital – Abu Dhabi Festival Visual Arts Award; the Gulf Capital – ADMAF Creativity Award; The Christo & Jeanne-Claude Award; the Cultural Excellence Fellowship. The Festival’s Community Programmes will include a calendar of events, exhibitions, performances and workshops to provide engaging, innovative and inspiring platforms for people of all ages to enjoy. Highlights during 2018 include the return of Festival in the Park with two nights of performances and workshops from an eclectic line-up of innovative musicians including Gilles Chuyen, The Raghu Dixet Project, Nesma Abdul Aziz and Zahed Sultan; Music in Hospitals; Festival in Focus; and Ministry of Science – Arabic, and film screenings from India amongst many others.


From Barcelona to Abu Dhabi: Works from Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) in dialogue with the Emirati Art (01 February – 17 March 2018). For the first time in the Arab world, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) presents one of the most significant European collections in dialogue with 15 Emirati artists. A collaborative curatorial effort between Ferran Barenblit (MACBA director) and Nasser Abdullah (Chairman, Emirates Fine Arts Society) the exhibition includes more than 60 artists and 80 years of contemporary art. Held at Manarat al Saadiyat ‘From Barcelona to Abu Dhabi: Works from the MACBA Art Collection in dialogue with the Emirates’ is a landmark collaboration that will be enriched by tours, talks, workshops and a major publication.


In recognition of the partnership between Abu Dhabi Festival and MACBA, Ainhoa Grandes, President of MACBA commented: “The dialogue offered by this exhibition expresses the importance of expanding the knowledge of our worlds, of the East and the West, of working together to bring art closer to broad audiences.”


Headline Programme:


Nicola Benedetti with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (19 February 2018) a pre-Festival concert with one of the most sought-after violinists of her generation, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – the British ensemble famed for their approach to 18th and 19th century music, redefining classical music as they confirm that not all orchestras are the same. They will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No.4, directed by OAE’s concertmaster, before Benedetti performs Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 while she also directs the orchestra.


The Merchants of Bollywood (8 March; 9 March 2018) theatrical spectacular that celebrates the world’s most prolific film industry through dance. The story of the last dynasty of choreographers, the huge cast, vibrant costumes, choreography by leading talent Vaibhavi

Merchant, and score by award-winning duo Salim and Sulaiman Merchant have thrilled more than two million people worldwide, featuring Arif Zakaria, Carol Furtado, Denzil Smith and

Sushant Pujari.


Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia – Rome (11 March; 12 March 2018): Two evenings with one of the oldest musical institutions in the world, founded in 1585 and one. Conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera House, London, the orchestra will be joined by the bright, ascending star pianist Beatrice Rana and one of the greatest violinists of her generation – Kyung Wha Chung.


Waves of My Life by Emirati composer Ihab Darwish with Beethoven Academy Orchestra, conducted by Stoyan Stoyanov (14 March 2018): Bringing together classical and contemporary influences, Emirati composer Ihab Darwish makes soaring music whose bold cinematic vibrancy arrests audiences. After years of preparation the world premiere of Waves of My Life takes place in his home country, performed by the Beethoven Academy Orchestra and guest musicians. As well as this special live performance, Ihab Darwish’s debut album will be available to listen to as part of the Composers’ Platform.


Opera in Concert: Deborah Voigt and Bechara Moufarrej (15 March 2018): Marking her Arab World Debut, Deborah Voigt, revered as one of the world’s great sopranos and one of the most respected and versatile music personalities, will be joined by Bechara Moufarrej, the beloved tenor from Lebanon, for a unique collaborative operatic recital at the Emirates Palace Auditorium.


Singing the Legends: A Night of Jazz with Omar Kamal (17 March 2018): Marking his UAE Debut, the Palestinian singer and composer garnering global recognition sings and swings classics from Sinatra’s jazz to Arab idols like Fairouz and Mohamed Abdul Wahab in a night of effortless cool at Emirates Palace Auditorium.


We the Living: Classical Indian Dance by Tanusree Shankar Dance Academy (19 March 2018): An interpretation of Sufi poet Rumi’s ‘Human Being’ is brought vividly to life through the expressive art form of classical Indian dance. In the spirit of its source, We the Living envisages humans as transcultural beings that have transcended social systems, religions and even their weighty physical forms.


Pink Martini Live in Abu Dhabi (21 March 2018): Known affectionately as ‘the little orchestra,’ Pink Martini are global musical adventure. For the first time, they bring their multilingual repertoire from the world’s most glamourous stages to the UAE.


Pianographique: Works for two pianos by Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Maurice Ravel with live visualisation (24 March 2018): This Arab World Debut is an immersive multimedia spectacular that re-envisions contemporary and classic pieces for piano, bringing them alive through the radical and revelatory approach of Ars Electronica. Dennis Russell Davies and Maki Namekawa will perform innovative works with live visualisations by Cori Olan.


The Sarod Master: USTAD Amjad Ali Khan (25 March 2018): One of the most distinguished masters in the world of Indian classical music, Amjad Ali Khan is revered as the sarod master. The sarod is fundamental to the Indian music tradition, shaping the character through its deep, weighty and introspective sound. Having travelled widely and performed internationally, international audiences from Pakistan, China and New Zealand to London, Italy, and Japan have revelled in this master’s expressive and entrancing performances.


The Festival Recital Series returns for a fourth consecutive year with an epic evening of the complete Bach concertos for two, three and four pianos in partnership with Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel and The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. The Bach Project (28 March 2018) is an Arab World Debut with two young prodigies forming part of the unique performance of six celebrated works, alongside the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie, led by pianist Frank Braley, pianist and QEMC’s master-in-residence Louis Lortie.  


Don Quixote – Compañía Nacional de Danza (29 March; 30 March 2018): Marking their Arab World Debut, the famed ballet tells the story of Miguel de Cervantes’ romantic knight Don Quixote, brought to life in this vibrant interpretation by Spain’s leading company, choreographed and directed by Jose Carlos Martinez.


For further information on schedules, venues and performances please visit the Festival website Abu Dhabi Festival can also be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



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Abu Dhabi Festival 2018 Ticket Information

Tickets will be available to purchase at:

UAE National Day Discount: 46% discount will be applied on all ticket purchases from Monday, 27th November until Sunday 3rd December.


Early Bird Discount Monday 4 December 2017 to Sunday 31 December 2017 – all ticket prices are reduced by 25% during this period.

Students receive 50% discount (ID required).


Performance: Emirates Palace Ticket Prices
Nicola Benedetti with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Diamond (AED 350); Gold (AED 250); Silver (AED 175), Bronze (AED125)
The Merchants of Bollywood Diamond (AED 350); Gold (AED 250); Silver (AED 175), Bronze (AED125)
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia – Rome Diamond (AED 350); Gold (AED 250); Silver (AED 175), Bronze (AED125)
Waves of My Life by Emirati composer Ihab Darwish Open to all by registration
Opera in Concert: Deborah Voigt and Bechara Moufarrej General admission AED 200
Singing the Legends: A Night of Jazz with Omar Kamal General admission AED 200
We the Living: Classical Indian Dance by Tanusree Shankar Dance Academy General admission AED 200
Pink Martini Live in Abu Dhabi Diamond (AED 350); Gold (AED 250); Silver (AED 175), Bronze (AED125)
Pianographique: Works for two pianos by Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Maurice Ravel with live visualisation General admission AED 200
The Sarod Master: USTAD Amjad Ali Khan General admission AED 200
The Bach Project AED 100
Don Quixote – Compañía Nacional de Danza Diamond (AED 350); Gold (AED 250); Silver (AED 175), Bronze (AED125)



About Abu Dhabi Festival

Under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Tolerance, the Abu Dhabi Festival is the UAE’s leading celebration of arts and culture. Launched in 2004, it continues to attract the highest calibre of artists to the UAE capital every year. The Festival has secured its place as the Arabian Gulf’s largest cultural event and has established partnerships with some of the world’s most influential cultural institutions including the Institut du Monde Arabe, Institut Francais, Edinburgh International Festival, Royal Opera House and Carnegie Hall. In addition to a world-class, multidisciplinary programme at Emirates Palace, the Festival’s educational and community programmes bring together artists, students, community groups and cultural organisations from across the UAE. The Abu Dhabi Festival actively supports emerging Emirati talent and advocates the importance of arts and culture in all aspects of life in the UAE.

For more information please visit our website at:




Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Tolerance

ADMAF is among the oldest, non-profit cultural organisations in the Arabian Gulf.  Founded in 1996, it is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, of development, of culture and of creativity. Over those last 20 years, ADMAF has pioneered new practices and new works, it has supported Middle Eastern debuts and nurtured the careers of gifted young professionals throughout the Arab world.

Today, ADMAF reaches nearly 40,000 children, young people and adults annually through arts-education and community-outreach programmes as well as the Abu Dhabi Festival. The annual multidisciplinary Festival is the largest cultural celebration in the entire region and reaches across the world through co-commissions and the international presentation of innovative Arab creativity. Each year, the Festival Awards honour outstanding individual contributions to arts and culture with previous recipients including Plácido Domingo and Amin Maalouf. In essence, the Abu Dhabi Festival strives to deepen global cross-cultural dialogue whilst inspiring a deeper interest in the cultures of the Arab world.

The diversity of ADMAF’s programmes has been astonishing and seminal, including pioneering music in hospitals; embedding best practice for art therapy among PMLD and SEND children; co-commissioning with international cultural organisations, such as the Zaha Hadid JS Bach Chamber Music Hall (with Manchester International & Holland Festivals); City of Light: Ravel’s Mother Goose with Installation (with the Los Angeles Philharmonic); presenting the Arab world debuts of Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Valery Gergiev, The London Symphony Orchestra and The Bolshoi; fostering innovation through initiatives such The Christo & Jeanne-Claude Award; and nurturing contemporary cultural expression among musicians such Naseer Shamma and composers Mohammed Fairouz.

For more information please visit our website at: