Culture is synonymous with Cranleigh and Saadiyat Island: our motto, Ex Cultu Robur (From Culture Comes Strength) reflects the significance we attribute to developing cultural experiences for all our children. Saadiyat is already the cultural hub of Abu Dhabi. The school is positioned at the gateway to the Cultural District and aims to take full advantage of the opportunities this offers.

Music, Drama, Dance, Art and Design, the Performance and Arts teams at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi combine to form an important and integral part of school life. Every term the school calendar includes regular formal and informal concerts, presentations and events.

HE Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan congratulates Cranleigh performers at the Beautiful World revival in the National Theatre, December 2016

Beautiful World: Students create an Opera in Five Days, Ministry of Culture requests a Revival

Beautiful World was a ground breaking educational project initiated in 2016 as part of our co-curricular cultural and arts programme. From the outset, the project’s aspirations were ambitious, focusing on two key goals. Firstly to find a new and innovative way to celebrate UAE culture; and secondly, to inspire and develop children through performance and visual arts.

The project was a pilot and, based on its success, the vision is that the model will be extended to involve and engage a broader section of Abu Dhabi’s educational and cultural community in the future.

It all started with the moving poem, Beautiful World, written by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Father of the Nation. Beautiful World became the muse for talented Emirati-born calligraphy artist, Narjes Noureddine, and resulted in the creation of a new and exquisite collection of artworks which were exhibited at Cranleigh in association with Abu Dhabi Art in November 2016.

Narjes’ exhibition was opened by His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development. It was presented in collaboration with, and curated by Zayed University’s College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, where Narjes is a fourth year student.

With Narjes’ artworks and the poem as the starting point, the second part of the project saw Karen Gillingham, Artistic Director of the Youth Opera Company at London’s Royal Opera House, bring together a hugely talented creative group comprising a music director, choreographer, designer and two opera singers. Narjes joined this dynamic, professional team and together, they worked intensively with 80 students and Cranleigh’s own performing arts faculty to devise, shape and stage a unique production. Everything, from set design to costumes, and dance choreography to musical libretto, was created by the students themselves, in less than five days.

The power of the project lay in the journey; in the lessons of teamwork and leadership, of tenacity and collaboration, commitment and self-expression as well as in the subject matter, which fused the rich heritage and beauty of the UAE with a Western operatic performance style.

The Beautiful World story concluded on December 6th 2016 at Abu Dhabi’s National Theater with the installation of Narjes’ exhibition and a revival performance of the opera under the patronage and in the presence of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development. The opera featured as part of No Limits, a powerful trilogy celebrating ‘Heritage, Harmony and Human Potential’ which was presented by The Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development as part of its 45th National Day programme.

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Saadiyat Island Cultural District

The cultural life of the school will be further developed as pupils continue to pursue performing arts activities within the unique backdrop of Saadiyat, with its iconic world-class cultural facilities. Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National MuseumGuggeinheim Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat’s auditorium, the UAE PavilionMaritime Museum and the Performing Arts Centre are all within sight of the school, to which pupils will have unique access. Visiting these landmarks with their regular exhibitions, performances and galleries will be an important part of each pupils’ experience, enhancing their learning and providing endless inspiration.