The 200-seat fabric-and-steel structure with flowing lines, commissioned in 2009 by the Manchester International Festival, will host Arab art and music. The Abu Dhabi Festival, starting on March 19, will take place in a city that’s using its oil income to transform into a hub of culture for the 21st century.
“It is such an intimate place to meet, a unique experience,” Hoda al-Khamis Kanoo, founder of the festival’s host the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, said in an interview. “Hadid designed the hall like a beautiful shawl wrapping everyone with so much warmth, bringing people together to appreciate music and art.”
Abu Dhabi, with 1 million people, 7 percent of the world’s oil reserves and one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, is pumping money into developing tourist attractions to break away from its dependence on crude-oil exports. The government is developing a cultural district on Saadiyat Island, including new branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums, for an estimated investment cost of 100 billion dirhams ($27.2 billion).
Tickets are now on sale for the festival, which is in its eighth year. Its opening night will feature the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie, Belgium’s oldest chamber orchestra, led by Augustin Dumay. Soloists will include Lebanese pianist and composer Abdel Rahman El Bacha.
Russian-born pianist Yefim Bronfman will be accompanied by the Russian National Orchestra for a “Bronfman and Brahms” concert, and the orchestra will accompany baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and soprano Ekaterina Siurina for a night of operatic pieces written by Mozart, Rossini, Verdi and Puccini.
The spirit of artistic collaboration has overcome the competition between Abu Dhabi and its neighbor Dubai. The festival will start after, rather than during, next month’s contemporary art fair Art Dubai, whose own program has expanded regionally this year to include events in Doha, Qatar, and the Sharjah Biennial.
Hadid’s pavilion will be located on the Emirates Palace Lawns and host events under the banner of “Arab Creativity in the Architecture of the Future.”
Tickets start at 225 dirhams for early bookers, rising to as much as 495 dirhams. This year’s proceeds will go to the Ewa’a Shelter for Women and Children, the “A Child A Promise” Foundation, and the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation.
“Money isn’t an obstacle,” Kanoo said. “It could be an obstacle elsewhere, but not here.”
The Abu Dhabi Festival runs from March 19 through April 4. Information: http://www.abudhabifestival.ae
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