Osmo Vänskä and Minnesota Orchestra to perform two concerts in Cuba
Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith announced today that the Minnesota Orchestra will perform two concerts in Cuba, one each on May 15 and 16, becoming the first U.S. orchestra to give performances in Cuba since President Obama took steps to normalize relations between the countries in December 2014. At the invitation of the Cuban Ministry of Culture, Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Orchestra will perform as part of Havana’s International Cubadisco Festival. One of the two concerts they play will feature the Beethoven Choral Fantasy with the Cuban National Choir and Cuban pianist Frank Fernandez. The trip, which will also include community
The tour is being made possible by a generous gift from Marilyn C. and Glen D. Nelson. “This initiative will demonstrate the power of music to offer extraordinary opportunities for cultural exchange,” said Marilyn Nelson, who serves as a Life Director on the Orchestra Board. “We are thrilled that our Orchestra will have the opportunity to make this connection in Cuba and represent our wonderful, inclusive community.”
Said President and CEO Kevin Smith, “We are honored to have received this invitation from the Cuban Ministry of Culture. In the orchestral world, the logistics of scheduling frequently make it challenging to move quickly, but our musicians have embraced the possibility of giving these performances with great flexibility on a short time scale and offered to postpone a vacation week in order to take advantage of an incredible opportunity. It will be the Minnesota Orchestra’s privilege to perform for audiences in Havana.”
The Minnesota Orchestra’s performances will be held on Friday, May 15, and Saturday, May 16, at the Teatro Nacional, one of Cuba’s largest theaters. In addition to the Choral Fantasy, the Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, Eroica, which the then-Minneapolis Symphony played on its inaugural visit to Cuba in 1929. Additional program repertoire will be announced at a later date.
The performances will take place as part of the International Cubadisco Festival, an annual music festival that also encompasses one of the most important recording competitions in the Cuban music industry. The theme for the 19th annual festival, running from May 15 to 24, is symphonic and choral music. “Eighty-five years ago, the Minnesota Orchestra, then called the Minneapolis Symphony, performed Beethoven’s music for Cuban audiences. It is a thrill and privilege for us to do the same so many decades later,” said Music Director Osmo Vänskä. “So much has transpired, so much has changed in the world since then. What has remained constant is the power of this music to affect and build bonds between audiences and performers.”
The Minnesota Orchestra’s touring history dates back nearly to the Orchestra’s founding in 1903. The ensemble was nicknamed “the Orchestra on Wheels” early on because of its frequent and lengthy cross country train travel. In 1929, the Orchestra extended its annual winter tour to accept an invitation to Cuba, and on January 29, the Minneapolis Symphony boarded a steamship to Havana and for the first time left the continental U.S. Led by then-Music Director Henri Verbrugghen, the tour was a successtwo Havana concerts were sold out within 24 hours, so a third concert was addedand a return visit was planned for the following year. The 1930 visit also encompassed three performances before 2,500 people. The Orchestra went on to tour the Middle East (in a 1957 State Department sponsored visit), Australia, the Far East and Europe. Most recently, Osmo Vänskä has led the ensemble on four highly regarded European tours, including a 2010 visit to the BBC Proms.
“We are humbled to be a part of the exciting process of reestablishing America’s cultural ties with the nation of Cuba,” said Concertmaster Erin Keefe. “This tour represents a unique chance to bring two cultures together through music, and we could not be more grateful for the opportunity.” The Minnesota Orchestra is working closely with Classical Movements who have handled the discussions with Cuba on behalf of the Orchestra. All arrangements for the Cuba Tour will be managed by Classical Movements, the leading concert touring company to Cuba, which has arranged musical tours to the island nation for more than 18 years. Also providing counsel and support is HarrisonParrott, worldwide general managers for Osmo Vänskä and international touring representatives for the Minnesota Orchestra together with its Music Director.