Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club ® featuring Omara Portuondo

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club ® featuring Omara Portuondo at Luglio Suona Bene 2012

In what has become an annual event at the Auditorium Parco della Musica's Luglio Suona Bene summer season of concerts the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club returned to Rome on Tuesday evening performing to a packed and enthusiastic audience in the open air cavea. The original and now legendary Buena Vista Social Club line up only ever played two concerts together in Amsterdam and New York City's Carnegie Hall after Ry Cooder brought the ageing Cuban musicians out of retirement to record a CD together, with Wim Wender's documentary in 1999 introducing them to a worldwide audience. Sadly, Compay Segundo, Rubén González and Ibrahim Ferrer are no longer with us, yet the Orchestra continues to tour the world with many Social Club veterans, celebrating the original Havana music venue that gave the band its name, as well as introducing a new generation of Cuban musicians such as the immensely talented young pianist Rolando Luna.

I've seen the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club in Rome many times over the last few years, but last night was an extra special evening with Social Club original members Guajiro Mirabal on trumpet, orchestra director Jesus Aguaje Ramos on trombone, and lute player Barbarito Torres, being joined on stage by Buena Vista guitarist and singer Eliades Ochoa for several songs including their signature tune Chan Chan, which brought spontaneous cheers during its opening bars, as well as the amazing Cuban tres player Papi Oviedo, who wowed the audience with some amazing improvisational dueling with Rolando Luna on the piano.

Omara Portuondo on stage in Rome
As always, the greatest cheers of the evening were reserved for Omara Portuondo, who appeared for a handful of songs in the second half of the show. Teasingly introduced by bandleader Ramos as “la mas sexy”, she opened her set with a lovely Tres palabras, demonstrating right away that the almost eighty-two year old Cuban diva is still in fine voice, and earning an immediate standing ovation. Whilst the effortlessly charismatic singers Idania Valdés and Carlos Calunga had done a fine job of getting the Rome audience clapping along and even dancing at some moments during the first half of the concert, it was Omara who had absolutely everybody up and out of their seats and singing along with songs such as Quizas Quizas Quizas. The house lights stayed up during her performance further dissolving the division between artist and adoring public, and when she hoisted her skirts and danced a few Cha-cha-cha steps there were cheers of delight!

Omara was back again for an exquisite encore of Dos Gardenias, which she sang with excellent lead vocalist Carlos Calunga, before the traditional show closer Candela brought the entire ensemble back on stage for an exhilarating finale!

Once again, a wonderful evening in the company of Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club! Highly recommended!


LindyLouMac said…
This looked like a perfect evening of entertainment in the open air when the temps were pleasant to be out in.