In the presence of H.H. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, and under the Founding Honorary patronage of H.H Sheikh Abdulla bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Abu Dhabi Festival 2024, a beacon of cultural excellence and artistic innovation, proudly presented a mesmerising gala concert on 31 January at the prestigious Emirates Palace. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of the composer Giacomo Puccini, the event featured the Arab World Premiere of the Puccini Festival Orchestra, led by the esteemed conductor ‘Jacopo Sipari di Pescasseroli’

The gala concert, a co-presentation by the Abu Dhabi Festival, the Embassy of Italy in the UAE, and the Italian Cultural Institute, showcased the extraordinary talent of the Puccini Festival Orchestra, renowned internationally for its exceptional musicality. The orchestra has captivated audiences across Europe, Asia and the United States, with noteworthy performances including a Puccini Marathon in Japan and unforgettable stagings of Madama Butterfly and Turandot in iconic venues.

The concert, a true celebration of Puccini’s legacy, featured outstanding performances by soprano Valeria Sepe and tenor Francesco Meli. Their exceptional artistry added a poignant and emotive dimension to the evening, paying homage to the brilliance of Giacomo Puccini’s compositions.

In addition to the Puccini repertory, the orchestra played Lawlaki by Emirati composer Ihab Darwish, a premiere for the Festival of an Emirati work played by an Italian orchestra. The Emirati cellist Elham El Marzouqi joined the Puccini Festival Orchestra to play in the cello section.

The collaboration between the Abu Dhabi Festival which is held under the patronage of H.H Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the Embassy of Italy in the UAE, and the Italian Cultural Institute has once again demonstrated the festival’s commitment to fostering cultural exchange and promoting the rich heritage of world-class artists.

Commenting on the success of the event, H.E. Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo Founder of Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, and Founder and Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival stated that the Festival’s commemoration of the centenary of the death of Giacomo Puccini reflects the Festival’s appreciation of international arts and its celebration of the achievements of great creators.

Her Excellency stated: ‘The Abu Dhabi Festival presented the Puccini Festival Orchestra for the first time in the Arab world, in collaboration with the Italian Embassy in the UAE and the Italian Cultural Institute. The evening shone a spotlight on masterpieces of Puccini’s operas from

Madama Butterfly to La Bohème and Tosca, emphasizing Abu Dhabi’s role as a global hub for the arts and as a beacon for classical and contemporary creativity.’

She concluded by saying: ‘Under the direction of the renowned conductor Jacopo Sipari di Pescasseroli and featuring the brilliant soprano and tenor Valeria Sepe and Francesco Meli, this exceptional gathering of top opera artists from Italy reflects the honoured status of the classical arts in this country and their creative role in expressing the highest human values.’

As the curtains closed on this unforgettable evening, the Abu Dhabi Festival 2024 once again proved its standing as a premier cultural event, bringing together international artists and audiences for an unparalleled celebration of the arts. The legacy of Giacomo Puccini lives on through the power of music, and the Abu Dhabi Festival remains at the forefront of promoting cultural exchange and artistic excellence.