Originating from one of the oldest musical institutions in the world, the orchestra performed under the baton of Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia and of the Royal Opera House, London. One of Europe’s most dynamic conductors, his outstanding services to music were recognised through the prestigious Abu Dhabi Festival Award, in association with Chopard, presented by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Paolo Gentiloni, Prime Minister of Italy.
The performance was also attended by Liborio Stellino, Italian Ambassador to the UAE, Zaki Nusseibeh, Minister of State, and Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) and Founder & Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival.
The first evening’s repertoire opened with Verdi’s Aida Sinfonia, before pianist Beatrice Rana – winner of the 2017 Gramophone Young Artist of the Year Award – joined the orchestra for a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The night concluded with Respighi’s ‘Fountains of Rome’ and ‘Pines of Rome’ – works written for the orchestra. They return for a second night to perform Brahms’ Violin Concerto, a work renowned for its technical difficulty, performed by violin virtuoso and prolific recording artist Kyung Wha Chung, followed by Richard Strauss’ rousing ‘A Hero’s Life’.
Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo said, "Classical and contemporary arts bring audiences together, transcending geographies and generations to communicate in an intangible and shared universal language. This is especially apparent in orchestral concerts, where a hundred musicians come together to perform enduring works with deep cultural resonances. Diverse audiences can share in these moments of harmonious creative expression, with works that transport and enrapture."
Liborio Stellino commented, "After 110 years of activities and almost 15,000 concerts, the Orchestra di Santa Cecilia in Rome comes to enlighten the Abu Dhabi cultural scene, thanks to the passionate enthusiasm and the remarkable commitment of Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, who every year sets up for the Abu Dhabi Festival a 'star array' of the brightest possible quality. This is really excellence paired with excellence and it is therefore a great privilege and honour for the Italian Embassy to co-host such a prestigious event that is meant to be a true landmark in the Italy-UAE cultural relationships."
During his illustrious career, Sir Antonio Pappano has held the position of Music Director at Den Norske Opera, La Monnaie, the Belgian Royal Opera House, and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. He was the youngest conductor to lead the orchestra of the Royal Opera House accompanying both the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet. He was knighted in the 2012 British New Year Honours for his esteemed services to music, for which he also received the Grand Cross of Italy's Order of Merit. In 2013, he received the Incorporated Society of Musicians' Distinguished Musician Award and was awarded the Gold Medal of the UK’s Royal Philharmonic Society in 2015.
Running until 31st March 2018, Abu Dhabi Festival will bring a line-up of globally renowned artists to the capital, including the world premiere of Emirati composer Ihab Darwish’s Waves of my Life performed by Beethoven Academy Orchestra and Polish Radio Choir, conducted by Stoyan Stoyanov; an intimate evening with internationally-renowned 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, featuring works by Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Maurice Ravel, with live visualisations by Ars Electronica; an evening of piano concertos for two, three and four pianos with The Bach Project; and, to conclude the Festival, Compa??a Nacional de Danza will make their Arab World Debut with Don Quixote.
Abu Dhabi Festival continues its programme of international commissions and co-commissions which includes Carmen at the Royal Opera House, London until 16th March.