UAE. The region’s first Arabic performance of Mozart's celebrated opera Don Giovanni closed with a standing ovation in the Garden City of the United Arab Emirates on Thursday to raise the curtain on the eighth, and largest, annual Al Ain Classical Music Festival.
Having played to a near capacity audience in the Al Ain Municipality Theatre, the cast – of eight soloists from Egypt and Lebanon with a chorus from Lebanon Chorale de l’universite Antonine and superbly accompanied by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor and musical director Zbigniew Graca – drew tremendous applause as they emerged on stage to take their bows with the production’s Polish director Ryszard Peryt.
It was an evening when Al Ain wrote itself into the classical music record books: the first Arabic performance in the region of the Mozart masterpiece with the libretto ably translated through 14 months of dedication by Egyptian opera lover, Dr Aly Sadek.
“This was a truly memorable night for Al Ain,” said HE Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage and of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, who attended the performance. “Given its standing as a centre for culture and heritage, Al Ain was the perfect venue for a night that will be remembered for some time to come.”
It was also a night never to be forgotten for young Lebanese soprano Nadine Nassar who made her operatic debut in the production in the role of Zerlina.
Holding back tears at the end of the performance, Nadine said the evening had been “highly emotional” for her.
“I would like to thank the Al Ain Classical Music Festival Committee for this opportunity. The chance to perform with fellow professionals and under professional direction and accompaniment from such a great orchestra is something I will never forget. Al Ain will be a place I will always now remember.”
With a simple, yet dramatic, stage set designed by Ryszard Peryt and rich, period costumes designed by Poland’s Katarzyna Stolarczyk, the production was a triumph in combining the libretto, music and theatre talents of both Europe and the Middle East.
“It was a universal production, a theme reflected in the cosmopolitan mix of the attending audience,” said HE Zaki Nusseibeh, Chairman of the Al Ain Classical Music Festival Committee. “This is just as it should be as the festival is a means of using music as a cross-border dialogue. It was encouraging to see UAE nationals well represented in the audience and we hope this is the start of nurturing a keen interest in opera within the country and the region.”
The Al Ain Classical Music Festival 2008, which is held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs, has been produced under co-operation with Milan’s celebrated Accademia Teatro alla Scala and is under the directorship of its Project and Tour Manager, Massimo Nebuloni.
For Nebuloni, the Don Giovanni success was a “promising start” to a festival he sees as setting the foundations of even greater things to come.
“This really was a great start to maturing the festival into a significant international event,” he said. “Many of the performers here are young and have great potential and with the correct training have the chance to go on to greater things. The Arabic libretto worked extremely well and should be the first step in encouraging composers from the region to turn their own talents to the production of an indigenous Arab opera.”
The Al Ain Classical Music Festival 2008 has been expanded from its traditional three-day event into an 11-dy celebration taking in productions in both Al Ain and Abu Dhabi.
The Festival, which runs until 16 March, continued on Saturday evening with a Richard Wagner Gala Concert at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi performed by 120 members of the Staatskapelle Dresden – one of the world’s longest-established orchestras and ranked among the world’s top five – under the direction of its principal conductor, the world-renowned Fabio Luisi.
For more information on the Al Ain Classical Music Festival 2008 log on to www.adconcert.ae