Media Release

Outstanding Arab World Debut by American Mezzo-Soprano Joyce DiDonato Enthralls Abu Dhabi Festival 2019 Audiences

Stellar pre-Festival performance by two-time Grammy winner and globally renowned American mezzo-soprano opera singer spearheads region’s foremost celebration of arts and culture

The inspiring artist received the prestigious Abu Dhabi Festival Award in recognition of her lifelong contribution to music

Headline programme to follow in March 2019, welcoming illustrious artists and performers for a sublime line-up showcasing UAE creativity and international cultural wealth

(Abu Dhabi, UAE: 25 January 2018): The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) welcomed two-time Grammy winner and globally renowned American mezzo-soprano opera singer, Joyce DiDonato, for her Arab World debut of In War & Peace: Harmony Through Music, a pre-Festival performance in the 16th year of the region’s largest celebration of arts and culture: the annual Abu Dhabi Festival. Heralded as the most potent female singer of her generation, DiDonato’s eloquent and moving plea for world peace in a modern, turbulent and violent era, culminated in an unforgettable night of rousing music and a voice described by The Times as “nothing less than 24-carat gold”. The special performance was attended by H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of ADMAF and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival, revealing the breadth and depth of an illustrious season of exceptional performances, exhibitions and events.

Performed at the iconic Emirates Palace Auditorium, the semi-theatricised concert production featured Italy’s dynamic and world-renowned il pomo d’oro orchestra, under the baton of charismatic conductor Maxim Emelyanychev, in an eclectic evening of Baroque opera arias that explored the subject of war and peace. Born of a personal project to create a set of little-known Neapolitan Baroque opera arias, In War & Peace: Harmony Through Music was first produced as an album in 2016.

H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival said: “This enthralling performance of In War and Peace could not have been more perfectly timed, as the UAE enters 2019, the Year of Tolerance. Tolerance is something each of us would do well to increase in our lives, no matter our cultural background, for it helps us to understand and appreciate one another, and opens the doors for dialogue and diplomacy.

“This was a significant Arab World debut, held in the capital, and one that exemplifies the Abu Dhabi Festival’s commitment to bringing the very finest world-class artists to these shores, inspiring our youth to explore their own talents and abilities.”

Liborio Stellino, Ambassador of Italy to the United Arab Emirates, said: “I am delighted and proud of the many Italian ‘ingredients’ at the opening of the sumptuous Abu Dhabi Festival 2019. il pomo d’oro orchestra is indeed not only named after a famous Italian opera, but it is also defined by several Italian talented artists and management, while the internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato has regaled the world audiences in reviving the best Italian early baroque tradition. It is therefore a real privilege to acknowledge such special ingredients under the inspiring cultural mastery and civic passion of H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, certain to be rewarded with another ‘recipe’ of magic quality at Emirates Palace. Once again this year we are going to strongly support Abu Dhabi Festival!”

This year, the Abu Dhabi Festival’s headline programme will present more than 500 international artists from 17 different countries, featuring masterpieces by 18 different composers in 18 productions, two co-productions and two commissions in more than 100 events across 25 venues. The illustrious mix of artists and genres across opera, ballet, orchestra, jazz and flamenco resonate with the Festival’s central theme, ‘Culture of Determination’, as it joins forces with the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi to celebrate those who battle against the odds to make a positive impact on society. Underscoring its commitment to championing global cultural exchange, creativity and innovation in the arts and furthering its symphony of global cultures, ADF19 will celebrate the Republic of Korea as its ‘Country of Honour’.

Abu Dhabi Festival 2019’s headline programme will include Korea’s first professional ballet company, the Korean National Ballet; one of Korea’s leading theatre orchestras, the Korean Symphony Orchestra; award-winning American jazz pianist extraordinaire, composer, producer, educator and Quincy Jones Artist, Justin Kauflin; Welsh bass-baritone, Sir Bryn Terfel; Sara Baras, considered one of the best flamenco dancers and choreographers in the world; and, to conclude the Festival, a performance by France’s oldest national ballet company, The Paris Opera Ballet, by George Balanchine.

The Festival will also host a compelling exhibition entitled Distant Prospects, presenting the history of European landscape painting from the world-renowned Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, including permanent loans from The Hohenbuchau Collection and other private collections. Exhibited for the first time in the Middle East, these artworks – some of the world’s most important – survey the history of landscape painting over the course of several centuries and the exhibition will feature key figures in the Late Renaissance and Baroque artistic movements. Parallel to the exhibition, an engaging educational programme will inspire visitors with panel discussions, guided tours and creative workshops. Extending the programme further afield, a specially designed residency will offer a unique experience for five practicing Emirati artists who will be given the opportunity to visit Vaduz and Vienna through a diverse itinerary of cultural engagements.

In line with its championing of culture in all its forms, ADF19 will also recognise outstanding achievements in the music industry by prolific musical pioneers through the Abu Dhabi Festival Awards. This year’s recipients will be Aurélie Dupont, for her outstanding devotion to the art of ballet;  Barenboim – Said Akademie, for its commitment to building bridges through arts and culture; and the late Ousha bint Khalifa Al Sweidi in honour of her exceptional contributions to Emirati poetry.

Marking the culmination of ADMAF’s year-round commitment to arts education and community enrichment, ADF19 will return with a series of Youth Platforms, empowering young, aspiring talent in the arts and culture fields through the ADF Visual Arts Education Programme; Young Filmmakers’ Circle; Riwaq Al Fikr; Riwaq Al Adab wal Kitab; The Gulf Capital – Abu Dhabi Festival Visual Arts Award; The Gulf Capital – ADMAF Creativity Award; The Christo & Jeanne-Claude Award, TOTAL Design Commission, ADMAF Design Fund, Tandem Al Emarat, UAE Theatre Circle, Young Media Leaders, The Artists’ Studio and Ministry of Science. The Festival’s Community Programmes, meanwhile, will include an engaging, innovative and inspiring calendar of events, exhibitions, performances and workshops for all ages, a highlight of which is the return of Festival in the Park – a two-day-and-night eclectic line-up of workshops and events, including captivating stand-up comedy artists performing outdoors at one of the capital’s finest venues, the spacious and vibrant Umm Al Emarat Park.