The 14th Abu Dhabi Festival once again secured its place as the Arabian Gulf's largest cultural event. It has established partnerships with some of the world's most influential cultural institutions including the Institute du Monde Arabe, Institut Francais, Edinburgh International Festival, Royal Opera House and Carnegie Hall through the years. Launched in 2004, it continues to attract the highest caliber of artists to the UAE capital every year.

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. Under the patronage of Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al-Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development and organized by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) the festival is surely the UAE's leading celebration of arts and culture. No doubt that Abu Dhabi Festival's message is to connect people with different cultures, backgrounds and ages through music, art and theatre. Presenting the creativity of over 160 Emirati and 200 international artists, the festival was able to unite, empower and inspire humanity through cross-cultural understanding.

This year Abu Dhabi Festival presented as part of its program one of the most sought after guitar players in the world, five-time GRAMMY award-winner Tomatito that was able to astound the audience with a thrilling display of innovative 'nouveau flamenco' in the Red Theater, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. Fusing the traditional Spanish form with jazz, gypsy, Brazilian and Turkish influences, the evening, entitled 'Tomatito - Soy Flamenco' saw the internationally acclaimed guitarist enthrall the audience with a passionate performance that blended Spanish flamenco dance, song, guitar and percussion.

With his exhilarating technique and commanding presence, Tomatito took the audience on an emotional and rousing journey through the bold and expressive world of Spanish guitar. Accompanied by El Torombo (a powerful figure in the Flamenco dance tradition) and an ensemble of masterful musicians, it was easy to see from the expressive performance why Tomatito was recently bestowed the prestigious Gold Medal for the Arts by King Felipe VI of Spain. Adding to an already impressive list of past appearances, his Abu Dhabi Festival concert joins performances at world-famous venues such as the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and London's Royal Albert Hall.

The Embassy of Spain to the UAE, Ambassador JosÈ Eugenio Salarich said, "Tomatito is perhaps the greatest representation of Spanish Flamenco today. Born into a family of great flamenco musicians, since a young age JosÈ Fern'ndez Torres witnessed the art of his father and grandfather, both nicknamed 'Tomate'. It is indeed an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to enjoy the essence of his sublime and passionate qualities in Abu Dhabi thanks to the vision and generosity of ADMAF."

A master of the passionate Spanish art form, Tomatito's extraordinary talent has included collaborations with musical legends such as Elton John, Mohamed Rouicha and Omar Faruk. The Spanish artist has been a pivotal player in the evolution of flamenco guitar, having started his career mentored by the father of Flameco guitar Paco de Luc'a and accompanying the famed flamenco singer Camar'n de la Isla. He has since made several collaborative albums and six solo albums, two of which have won Latin GRAMMY Awards.

China's National Centre

For The Performing Arts In their Arab world debut, China's National Centre For The Performing Arts (NCPA) Orchestra dazzled audiences as part of their two consecutive performances in the majestic Emirates Palace auditorium. The first evening's repertoire included Tchaikovsky's Slavonic March, Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2 performed to perfection by pianist Haochen Zhang and Dvor'k "New World" Symphony No.9 in E Minor. Tonight's performance will feature emotive pieces such as Bach's Chaconne in D Minor, The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto by He Zhanhao & Chen Gang effortlessly performed by violinist Lu? Siqing and Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suite.

Recognized as one of the finest orchestras in Asia, China's NCPA Orchestra moved the audiences with powerful performances conducted under the baton of Maestro Yi Zhang whose dynamic personality and panache shone through during the invigorating evening. Yi Zhang has been named as one of the most influential young conductors in China having conducted hundreds of concerts, operas and ballets throughout his career. Over the past two decades, he has collaborated with many orchestras both at home in China and abroad including: the China National Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Colonne, Paris and the W¸rttemberg Chamber Orchestra.

Irrefutably bringing the NCPA's guiding principle to life, 'For The People, For Art And For The World', the orchestra's first performance in the Middle East is demonstrative of the world-class international talent that the Abu Dhabi Festival attracts. Established in 2010, China's NCPA Orchestra has consistently presented creative and diverse programs during its history. Gaining critical acclaim, their performance of the mammoth 'Ring Without Words' with its creator Lorin Maazel was the only recording the great maestro ever made with a Chinese orchestra.

China's NCPA Orchestra has received widespread international praise for its performances across the globe. Having played at world-famous venues across Europe, the US and Asia, the Abu Dhabi Festival represents the latest in a long line of prestigious venues for the Asian orchestra that include the Kissingen Summer Music Festival and the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival and concerts across Germany, as well as in Australia, Singapore, Seoul, Daegu, Taipei and Macau. During the 2014/15 season, the orchestra undertook its first North American tour, where it performed in seven major cities in the US and Canada, under the baton of L¸ Jia.


By Sahar Moussa