Media Release

The Abu Dhabi Festival Announces Thrilling Line-Up of Internationally Renowned Headline Acts for 2020

  • Abu Dhabi’s leading festival of arts and culture, now in its 17th year, to be held in March and April 2020, celebrating Unity and the legacy of the UAE’s Cultural Foundation
  • Historic collaboration with New York’s MET announced, as well as world-first performance by American Ballet Theatre with The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Diverse array of community and education events to engage and inspire emerging talent through innovative youth platforms and community programmes


Abu Dhabi, UAE – 11 November, 2019: Abu Dhabi Festival today announced its remarkable headline programme, international commissions, youth platforms and community programmes for 2020.

The Festival’s theme for 2020 is ‘Unity: Celebrating the Cultural Foundation’, reflecting its commitment to the vision of the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, by sharing the nation’s cultural dialogue with the world. It consolidates the UAE’s status as a forum for different cultures within the framework commited to the values of tolerance and openness. Abu Dhabi Festival celebrates the Cultural Foundation – the capital’s home of arts, culture and creativity.

Underscoring its commitment to championing global cultural exchange, creativity and innovation in the arts and global cultures, 2020’s Abu Dhabi Festival will celebrate all countries that have collaborated with it, highlighting the values of tolerance, openness and humanity that Emirati people hold for everyone.

Now in its 17th year, the Festival – a cornerstone of the capital’s annual cultural calendar – will present 46 events across 15 venues, feature more than 380 international artists from 11 different countries, masterpieces by more than 19 composers, three co-productions and commissions, four Arab-world debuts, three world premieres and two world tours by a distinguished mix of artists and genres across Poetry and Theatre, Opera, Ballet, Orchestra and Jazz.


The Festival’s headline programme will include eclectic performances by Reem Almenhali and Joanna Settle as they make their world debut with mesmerising Arabic and English language poetry weaved together with projected images and movement in three pre-Festival performances of Al Raheel |


Departure; the Arab world debut of The Cleveland Orchestra, widely acknowledged as being among the world’s very best, hosting four sensational evenings under the baton of Music Director Franz Welser-Möst – opera with British baritone Sir Simon Keenlyside, classics with the world’s favourite cellist and previous Festival headliner, Yo-Yo Ma, as well as a two performances with one of the world’s leading dance companies, American Ballet Theatre, in its masterful interpretation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – the first time these two world famous institutions will have collaborated on this production, marking a significant achievement for the Festival.

A new component of the Festival is The Abu Dhabi Festival Youth Orchestra – providing a platform for the UAE’s talented young musicians – and for 2020 it will feature the Emirates Youth Symphony Orchestra. Concluding the Festival’s headline programme, two-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, Gregory Porter, will bring his earthy, cross-pollinated brand of jazz, soul, and gospel to the UAE for the first time.

Speaking at the press conference held at the Emirates Palace, just one of the venues of Abu Dhabi Festival’s annual headline programme, H.E. Huda Ibrahim Alkhamis, Founder of Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival, said: “Our celebration of the Cultural Foundation, under the theme of Unity, is more than a celebration of a restored historic building. It is a celebration of a pioneering vision, by the Late Sheikh Zayed, to the country, to the nation, and to the whole world – namely that culture, science and enlightenment are the main pillars of the renaissance of humanity.”

She added: “To celebrate the Cultural Foundation is to celebrate Zayed’s belief that culture is our pulse – essential for our very existence – and it shapes our identities, our futures and the values that we believe in. His belief in us giving great ideas to the world is, indeed, the most beautiful and noble message.

“In fact it is the tool that establishes our relationships with others and opens dialogue while recognising and acknowledging our differences. This in turn enriches our society, making tolerance and dialogue prominent aspects of our Emirati society. Zayed (God bless his soul) chose the Cultural Foundation to be a home for gathering us together with a common vision for making the world a better place.”








She added:“The Cultural Foundation opened its doors, as intended by the Founding Father, to incubate cultural institutions such as the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation.

It was the base-platform from which we sought to exchange ideas, experience and consolidate cultural dialogue. It is where the brilliance of artists and creative people have worked together with love and ambition for decades, nurturing the values of goodness, development and giving.

Investing in human education and knowledge, and embracing the young talents, working to achieve their dreams and adopt their ideas, together we walked with all our strength. Today, these young talents are the fabric of the renaissance that we are witnessing, and the cornerstone of our nation.

From the Cultural Foundation, the Abu Dhabi Festival has emerged with ambition and energy, and unique achievements with its international partnerships. It hosts international artists and the most important international performances, contributing to the economic, cultural, and intellectual renaissance of the UAE. It is dedicated to strengthening the UAE’s international presence, with strong content and global partnerships.”

H.E. Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said: “DCT Abu Dhabi has a clear vision for the cultural evolution of the emirate, and running parallel to our efforts are the programmes of important private initiatives such as ADMAF, that complement what we are doing and add even more richness and depth to Abu Dhabi’s thriving cultural ecosystem. Over the years we have seen the Abu Dhabi Festival grow and flourish into the premier performing arts event in the region. As DCT Abu Dhabi cements Abu Dhabi’s position as a global destination offering a world-class calendar of events, we are proud to see the festival return once more to present the highest standard of artistic programming for both residents and visitors to enjoy.”


Steven Bondy, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy in the UAE said: “The Abu Dhabi Festival is a wonderful celebration of culture and the arts in the UAE. Under the patronage of Minister of Tolerance H.E. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and thanks to the tremendous vision and leadership of H.E. Huda Ibrahim Alkhamis, it has established itself as a world-class event and the highlight of the Abu Dhabi cultural season. I am thrilled that this year, so many outstanding American artists will participate, contributing to the tremendous collaboration between the U.S. and the UAE throughout the history of this event. This is cultural diplomacy at its finest – sharing the best of American arts with audiences in the UAE.”



Abu Dhabi Festival will also continue to spearhead cultural diplomacy, taking co-commissions and co-productions to the world and allowing new audiences to experience and encounter new works through its International Programme. This year’s programme will include Pierre Boulez Saal 2019-2020 with Naseer Shamma, Kinan Azmeh and Brooklyn Rider; the world debut of From Sheherazade to Yo, Carmen, one of the finest contemporary flamenco shows – a co-production by Gran Teatre del Liceu and Abu Dhabi Festival; The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer), a co-production by The Metropolitan Opera, Dutch National Opera, Abu Dhabi Festival and Opéra de Québec – the first collaboration of its kind, in the history of the MET, with an Arab organisation; the Beethoven Easter Festival, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with symphony and chamber concerts, oratorios, operas and several accompanying events; the international tour of the Filasteen Young Musicians Orchestra, also part of Abu Dhabi Festival Youth Orchestra; and the continuing world tour of Palestinian singer and musician, Omar Kamal.



In line with its history of championing culture in all its forms, Abu Dhabi Festival 2020 will also recognise outstanding lifelong achievements in the arts through the Abu Dhabi Festival Awards, in association with Chopard. 2020’s recipients include Norma Lerner, Honorary Chairman of the Cleveland Orchestra Board of Trustees and Chairman of The Lerner Foundation; Christo Javacheff, the land artist who has produced many iconic environmental artworks; Yehia Al Fakharani, one of the most sought-after theatrical producers and actors in the Arab World; and Paloma O’Shea, Founder and Current Principal of Spain’s Reina Sofía College of Music.



As part of the Festival’s year-round commitment to arts education and community enrichment, ADF 2020 will also return with a series of Youth Platforms, empowering young, aspiring talent in the arts and culture fields through the UAE Theatre Circle, Young Filmmakers’ Circle, Young Media Leaders, Riwaq Al Fikr, Riwaq Al Adab wal Kitab, Abu Dhabi Festival Visual Arts Award, ADMAF Creativity Award, Design Commission, ADMAF Design Fund, The Christo & Jeanne-Claude Award, The Artists’ Studio, and Tandem Al Emarat.

The Festival’s Community Programmes, meanwhile, will include an engaging, innovative and inspiring calendar of events, exhibitions, performances and workshops for all ages, including Ministry of Science, Music in Hospitals, Festival in Focus and Back to School.

For further information on schedules, venues and performances please visit the Festival website

– ENDS –