What’s On previews the Abu Dhabi Festival 2015, including the live music concerts, theatre, art exhibitions, cinema screenings in Abu Dhabi.

The 12th edition of the Abu Dhabi Festival takes place from March 3 to April 2 and it is bringing some big names in music, art and even film to the city. The annual arts and culture festival, first launched in 2004, will see both established and up-and-coming artists perform in the capital. From prolific Brazilian Bossa Nova music legend Sergio Mendes, who has more than 55 album releases under his name, to Lebanese-American singer Mayssa Karaa, who will be releasing her first record later this year – culture is taking centre stage in the emirate this month.

Mark your calendars for the main programme headliners performing during the festival.

Sergio Mendes
Making his debut in the Gulf with a performance at Emirates Palace, Brazilian music star Sérgio Mendes will perform a selection of beats from his country. Accompanied by rapper H20 and his ten-piece band, the concert will feature his greatest hits, including The Girl From Ipanema, Mas Que Nada and The Fool On The Hill.
March 20
Dhs125 to Dhs350
Abu Dhabi Festival: Sergio Mendes

Juan Diego Florez
Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez will perform A Night At The Opera with the Grammy-nominated Budapest Festival Orchestra during the festival. The Gulf premiere will see Gábor Takács-Nagy conduct the orchestra while Florez sings highlights of European opera by the likes of Gioachino Rossini, Georges Bizet and Gaetano Donizetti.
March 23
Dhs125 to Dhs350

Abu Dhabi Festival: Juan Diego Florez

Jan Lisiecki
Performing for the first time in Abu Dhabi, Canadian-born artist Jan Lisiecki will tickle the ivories with an evening of classical piano. The award-wining piano prodigy – he is only 19 years old – will perform a selection of music including Bach, Mendelssohn, Grieg and Chopin. “The programme I have put together is meant to display what is possible on the piano,” he says.
March 24

Abu Dhabi Festival: Jan Lisiecki

Riccardo Muti
With Italy being named the Country Of Honour during this year’s festival, the world-renowned maestro Riccardo Muti will conduct the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra, an ensemble made up entirely of young musicians from Italy. The concert will also feature German violin virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto.
March 25
Dhs125 to Dhs350

Budapest Festival Orchestra
The Budapest Festival Orchestra (conducted by its founder Iván Fischer) will perform with the award-winning Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5. On March 28 and 30, the orchestra will stage performances of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, and will be joined onstage by the choir of the Budapest Festival Orchestra.
March 26, 28, 30
Dhs125 to Dhs350

Mayssa Karaa
The final concert will see Lebanese-American singer Mayssa Karaa make her festival debut with a line-up of musicians and a special guest, UK singer-songwriter Marcus Nand. Karaa, who sings in both Arabic and English, is best known for her Arabic rendition of White Rabbit on the Oscar-nominated film American Hustle’s soundtrack.
April 2
Dhs125 to Dhs350

Abu Dhabi Festival, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, Dhs125 to Dhs350. Tel: (02) 3336400. Taxi: Emirates Palace. abudhabifestival.ae

Finding FotoFest
For the first time in the Middle East, the FotoFest exhibition View From Inside: Contemporary Arab Photography, Video & Mixed Media Art will be displayed as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival. Free to view and staged at Emirates Palace, the exhibition showcases a range of works from contemporary Arab artists.

March 21 to April 20
The Gallery, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, noon to 8pm, free. Tel: (02) 3336400. Taxi: Emirates Palace. abudhabifestival.ae

Abu Dhabi Festival: FotoFest

Art Therapy Exhibit
Members of the Abu Dhabi-based group Osturaa Support Alliance present community artworks created during a series of workshops. Art therapy has become an effective treatment in supporting and releasing symptoms of depression. The showcase will be held in The Space, at twofour54, next to Khalifa Park and the Park Rotana.

March 18 to 25

Leaves Of Time
Check out Sawsan Al Bahar’s installation Wra’a il Zaman (or Leaves Of Time) in the Auditorium Foyer at Emirates Palace. Al Bahar was commissioned to create a piece for this year’s festival and her work is inspired by Palestinian refugees and consists of suspended 3D sculptural pieces that resembles sheets of paper blowing in the breeze, capturing a moment frozen in time.

March 20 to April 2

Gallery tours
Every Tuesday at noon and every Saturday at 3pm, check out guided tours of the Gallery at Emirates, which is housing the FotoFest exhibiton.

March 20 to April 2

Abu Dhabi Festival: FotoFest

View From Inside talk
Hosted at the New York University Abu Dhabi Institute, in collaboration with the festival, Arab artists participating in the View From Inside exhibition will discuss contemporary Arab photography, video and mixed media art at this forum. From 10.30am to 5pm.

April 15

Cinema Emirati will showcase a variety of movies, many made by local filmmakers

Sun Dress
Starring Neven Madi, known for her appearance in Nawaf Al Janahi’s Emirati flick Sea Shadow, this film is a story of hardship and disability as the central characters struggle to find their place in society. Directed by Saeed Salmeen, who won Best Emirati Director at the Dubai International Film Festival back in 2008.

March 18, 5pm

Abu Dhabi Festival: Sundress

This film explores how individuals can avoid getting sick in the modern world by respecting their lifestyle, health and planet. Filmmaker Mark van Wijk says: “People need to understand that they are actually a part of nature and my dream is for my work to bridge the divide that civilisation and technology have created.”

March 18, 7pm

Abu Dhabi Festival: Origins


This documentary by Emirati filmmaker and poet Nujoom Al Ghanem follows the professional and personal struggles of a Syrian actress who emigrated to Abu Dhabi. The film won the Muhr Emirati award at the 2014 Dubai Film Festival.

March 19, 5pm

Abu Dhabi Festival: Amal

The Brain That Sings
Telling the story of two autistic boys in the UAE, this documentary by Amal Al Agroobi (see panel below) follows 19-year-old Mohammed and six-year-old Khalifa as they begin three months of music therapy to help manipulate the boys’ moods and emotions.

March 19, 7pm


Abu Dhabi Festival: The Brain That Sings