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6th Annual Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival Opens

(ABU DHABI, U.A.E.) -- The 6th Annual Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival opened tonight at the Emirates Palace auditorium with an opera gala featuring Angela Gheorghiu, one of the world's most dynamic sopranos.

Partnering with tenor Jonas Kaufmann and accompanied by the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra led by Ion Marin, Gheorghiu enchanted the audience with her humor and graciousness as well as her voice.

They responded with cheers and clapping, standing as the soprano finished a thrilling duet with Kaufmann from Puccini's opera La Boheme. In return the singers and the orchestra added extra songs to the program including a spirited rendition by Gheorghiu of "I could have danced all night" from My Fair Lady.

Sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival is more evidence that the emirate is continuing its bid to be the cultural capital of the Middle East. The global financial crisis has not had a visible effect here on major projects related to culture.

The opera gala opened two weeks of top caliber performances at the Emirates Palace anchored by the outdoor stadium appearance of Andrea Bocelli, the blind opera singer who is the biggest selling tenor of all time, on March 27.

But the big bang performances are only part of the Music and Arts Festival. Its educational program brings music and art into colleges and school and schedules outside events for children. The English National Ballet will present Angelina's Star Performance, about a dancing mouse, four times over two days. This year the educational program also involves two centers for special needs.

As part of the Festival, British-Iraqi painter Dia Al-Azzawi is being honored with the first retrospective of his work which is displayed at Emirates Palace and the Ghaf Gallery. Al-Azzawi will talk to students at Zayed University and conduct a guided tour of his work at the two galleries.

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