Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club® bids farewell to Rome on Adios Tour

Featuring Omara Portuondo, Eliades Ochoa, Guajiro Mirabal, and Barbarito Torres

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club on stage in Rome

The return of the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club during the Auditorium Parco della Musica's Luglio Suona Bene summer season of concerts is an eagerly anticipated annual event, with the Cuban band playing to sold out audiences in the open air Cavea year after year. Thursday night’s concert, however, which once again saw the legendary Buena Vista Social Club veterans joined on stage by a new generation of talented Cuban musicians, under the baton of band leader Jesus Aguaje Ramos, marked the end of an era and the orchestra’s farewell to Rome on this, its final tour.

As the lights dimmed and the concert began, it was the orchestra’s youngest member, the hugely talented virtuoso pianist Rolando Luna, who first took to the stage. He sat alone at the piano to play Como Siento Yo as images and footage of original Buena Vista pianist Rubén González were projected onto a giant screen at the back of the stage. It was a poignant and fitting opening for a concert tour that not only celebrates the Social Club members who are no longer with us, but in many ways also signals the passing of the torch to younger musicians who are keeping traditional Cuban alive. Later in the show, seeing Ibrahim Ferrer dancing on the big screen as Carlos Calunga sang Bruca Maniguá was a genuinely moving experience.

Barbarito Torres, Omara Portuondo and Papi Oviedo on stage in Rome
As always, regular singers Calunga and Idania Valdés worked their charm on the Rome audience throughout the first half of the show, with star turns by guitarist and singer Eliades Ochoa and lute player Barbarito Torres eliciting cheers, but it was Omara Portuondo who received an instant standing ovation when she appeared on stage. Her adoring fans stayed on their feet clapping and dancing through La Mulata del Cha Cha Cha. There was a hushed silence, however, as the orchestra left the stage leaving her alone with Luna on the piano, and Ramos on trombone, for a wonderful version of 20 años, where she displayed all the warmth and range of what, at 83 years of age, is still an incredibly fine voice.

No Buena Vista Social Club concert would be complete without Compay Segundo’s Chan Chan, and it was this song, with vocals by Ochoa, which accompanied the video tribute to the late bandleader. At this point the entire audience in the packed Cavea was on its feet and stayed that way, swaying and dancing through show closer El Cuarto de Tula, and singing along with Omara’s final song in the encore – a lovely duet with Calunga on Dos Gardenias. Finally, after a frenetic and utterly infectious Candela, it really was time to say goodbye to this formation of Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club.

Adios...and gracias.


What a beautiful evening of music! Nice to hear about the newer generation stepping in to keep the artistic legacy going!