By Hermoine Macura-Noble
Special to The Times Kuwait

A star-studded line-up of performers helped welcome the world to Expo 2020 Dubai, decorating an opening ceremony that will be remembered forever by the 3,000-strong audience, as well as millions across the globe who tuned in to virtually view the event.

With the golden ring of connectivity — the inspiration for the Expo 2020 Dubai logo  — raised up high at the magnificent Al Wasl Plaza, the essence of the Expo site and the spectacular setting for the captivating ceremony, the most inclusive World Expo ever was officially underway.

In addition to music from some of the most influential artists on the planet and a beautiful live orchestra, a sensory overload of powerful visuals was beamed across Al Wasl Plaza’s dome, the world’s largest 360-degree projection screen.

The flags of Expo’s 192 participating nations, revealed via a domino effect as flags were opened one by one, was a visually stunning moment that also signified a reawakening of the world.

The first star performer of the night was chart-topping British vocalist Ellie Goulding who belted out a resounding, uplifting version of Anything Can Happen; Andra Day enraptured the audience with Rise Up; Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang wowed with his wizardry; and four-time Grammy winning singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo, together with renowned Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu, sang John Legend’s powerful If You’re Out There?

“It feels amazing to be in the UAE… I think we all need a pivotal moment in the world right now. I think the idea that this is something new is just a really great sign that things are changing for the better. And, you know, the UAE are really forward with their green initiatives and it is a pretty green place, as far as comparisons with some other countries and places. So I’m proud to be a part of it. And I think, like I said, it’s a moment that we need,” said Goulding.

Legendary Chinese musician maestro, Ylang Ylang said he also believes Expo 2020 Dubai will bring more connected thinking. “Connecting minds…that’s how we improve. With great minds from different parts of the world, we create the future.  I have my own educational ideas that involve many creative minds. We’re trying to build music schools around the globe. The Expo 2020 theme will inspire us to do more, and as we meet people here, we can create a better future together.”

However, it was celebrated tenor Andrea Bocelli who brought the house down, rounding off the night’s electrifying proceedings with one of his all-time classics, The Prayer, its lyrics of human connection concluding into the grand finale.

“I am very happy and honored to be here because, of course, it is one of the most important global events —  especially after a year as difficult as the one we have gone through. Therefore, it is a way for me to share with everyone great optimism, to look to the future with confidence,” explained Bocelli.

With more than 80 million albums under his belt, classical music’s biggest-selling living artist also said he likes to reflect all of the affection his audience has given him for many years, especially now more than ever.

“We have all gone through a year that no one could ever have imagined. For a year, we have lost the essentials, our freedom in and, in a sense, and even our dignity. Now we finally see the light and I hope that this event will also help to instil in everyone a sense of optimism, a desire to achieve and to put what has been behind us,” concluded Bocelli.

Other highlights included the official Expo song, This Is Our Time, sung by Arab artists Hussain Al Jassmi, Almas and Mayssa Karaa, while Emirati singing sensation Ahlam Alshamsi completed the formidable regional line-up.

Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman’s all-women ensemble, the Firdaus Orchestra, comprising 50 musicians from across the Arab world, also proved a pivotal part of the ceremony’s inspiring journey.

A feeling of warmth, respect, togetherness and camaraderie was palpable throughout the celebration, which also demonstrated that the world is primed and ready to re-embrace live events. The stage is now set for Expo 2020 Dubai to host the biggest cultural gathering in the world, presenting a visually striking and emotionally inspiring 182 days, as more than 200 participants, including nations, multilateral organisations, businesses, and educational institutions, as well as millions of visitors, create the largest and most diverse World Expo ever.

The first Australian English speaking News Anchor in the Middle East. She is also the Author of Faces of the Middle East and Founder of US-based 501c3 charity – The House of Rest which helps to ease the suffering of victims of war. For more from our Contributing Editor, you can follow her on Instagram, here.

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