Omara Portuondo | Auditorium Parco della Musica, Sala Sinopoli | 28 March, 2009

One of the most poignant scenes in Wim Wender's extraordinary documentary about Ry Cooder's trip to Cuba in 1998 to record with the musicians of The Buena Vista Social Club is surely the moment when Ibrahim Ferrer wipes a solitary tear from Omara Portuondo's cheek after performing their duet Silencio. In fact, it was that film which finally brought some of the greatest stars of Cuban music – many of them already well into their seventies - such as Omara Portuondo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo and Ruben Gonzalez much deserved international acclaim.

Born in 1930, Omara Portuondo is still touring the world as a charismatic ambassador for Cuban music, amazing audiences with the range of her extraordinary and still impeccable voice and her unique interpretive style. Last night, when she appeared on stage in the packed Sala Sinopoli at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, she looked genuinely moved by the warmth of the Roman welcome – here was a living legend, a world famous diva, whose modesty and humour shine through.

She is currently on a European tour promoting her latest CD release, Gracias, celebrating the 60th year of her career, and in fact she opened the concert with the title track and followed quickly with the first track Yo vi and then an absolutely spine tingling version of Adios felicidad.

Most of those original Buena Vista Social Club stars are sadly, no longer with us, and Omara paid particular tribute to Ibrahim Ferrer singing one of the songs he made famous - Dos Gardenias – pausing before continuing the song at one point for the protracted and spontaneous applause that came from the audience at the mention of Ferrer's name.

She was accompanied on stage by a young and dynamic band of mostly Cuban musicians – the 24 year old jazz pianist Harold Lopez Nussa would certainly have earned the highest score if there had been a clapometer in the theatre last night – what a star! The extended band solos during the mid-set intermission of sorts when Omara briefly left the stage were thrilling – Swami Jr. (musical director and guitar), Felipe Cabrera (double bass) Andrés Coayo (drums) and Rodney Yllarza Barreto (percussion) all took turns in the spotlight. In fact, Omara's championing of this younger generation of Cuban musicians is testament to her determination to keep the torch of great Cuban folk music alive.

There was even a nod to Italian music too last night when she invited Italian singer-songwriter Joe Barbieri and guitarist Gino Evangelista on stage – introducing them in Italian, not Spanish, to the delight of the audience – to perform a lovely duet on the song Malegria.

The standing ovation she received at the end of the show was a foregone conclusion...leaving the stage as audience and performer sang “gracias, gracias, gracias” together she was back again for the briefest of encores – a perfect Bésame Mucho and a promise to return in two years' time.

Gracias Omara!