In the Sunday (12/20) edition of the Chicago Tribune, Jonathan Black reports on Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where efforts are underway to make that city a cultural destination. “When I visited in spring, the city was staging its sixth Music and Arts Festival, a two-week extravaganza of opera, ballet and classical music, with top performers from the Arab world…. Unlike sprawling Dubai, Abu Dhabi feels like a real city. There’s an identifiable downtown and an extensive grid of streets that, if lacking charm, bustle with life, sidewalk cafes and storefront merchants.” At the city’s “absurdly opulent” Emirates Palace hotel, Black writes, “I saw a stirring festival performance of Giselle by the Bolshoi Ballet, followed the next night by tenor Andrea Bocelli, who treated 11,000 fans on the palace lawn to his signature opera lite arias. Then it was back indoors for flutist James Galway and other musicians. As noteworthy as the festival lineup is its iron-willed founder and guiding light, the rare woman in a world of sheiks and patriarchy: Her Excellency Hoda Al-Khamis Kanoo. ‘Our city is all about power and culture,’ Kanoo said at her art-filled home, while a small army of Philippine maids offered coffee and bowls of chocolates. ‘My dream here is to bring the East and West together through art and music.’”

Posted December 22, 2009